First, a caveat. I think African Wild Dogs are easily one of the coolest animals on this planet. That said, this book clearly ranks as one of the best ecological studies of any animal that I've ever read. As my review title suggests, it's a fantastic book, but it's primarily geared towards an academic audience. By that I mean that there is a lot of presentation, analysis, and discussion of actual data regarding the wild dogs. I should note that it is quite possible to read the book without a scientific background, you just won't get the full extent of the depth of knowledge that's offered by this book. Scott and Nancy Creel spent six years observing wild dogs in Selous Park, where the largest concentration of this rare carnivore live (roughly 800 or so), and they amassed a mountain of relevant information about AWDs.
The book deals with several broad topics, including the benefits of pack hunting, aspects of prey selection, competition between carnivores, issues of disease, demographics, habitat selection, and many other topics. What's so valuable about this book is that the Creels go beyond AWDs by including data from other carnivore species to test their hypotheses (e.g., the benefit of cooperative hunting for lions, hyenas, wolves, AWD, etc.). They even make a novel test of how herd size affects predation in prey species. They (rightly) comment that such a test requires knowledge of the predator to test, and their conclusions are quite interesting.
Overall, for anyone with a modest science background, this is clearly an amazing book about African Wild Dogs. For anyone interested in how to do and present good ecological research, this is also an amazing book. For anyone interested in African plain/woodlands ecology, again, this is an amazing book. The only drawback besides the sometimes challenging level of the text is that the black and white photographs within the book are often of poor quality. Which is really quite a shame give how good the rest of the book's information is.
But that's a minor complaint. African Wild Dogs are not only perhaps the most effective co-operative carnivores, they are also perhaps the most social of all carnivores, and are certainly, and very sadly, the most endangered. Which makes the importance of this book even greater. The final chapter of this book is devoted to suggested conservation efforts for wild dogs. Briefly, they need lots of territory with few lions in it. There's more to it than just that, but you really need to read the entire book to get the scope of the work presented by the authors on this fabulous species. I just really, really hope that this book doesn't end up becoming a legacy to a lost species.
That's not just a compliment. It's a literal fact. There is no other book dedicated to wild dogs. Not in print. Probably not at all. And if we're to be "stuck" with just one publication, it is sheer pleasure to be stuck with this one. Highly readable, engaging, informative... robust science, excellent documentation, interesting and mind-expanding explanations and statistics... There's no other book out there, but even if there were, it would be hard pressed to meet this publication for quality and readability. Five stars. Worth every penny.
No, this is NOT the only book on the African Wild Dog, although yes it is a good one and well worth the money. I'd have to also recommend the one by McNutt, I believe it's called Dispelling the Myths of the African Wild Dog. McNutt has been studying these misunderstood dogs for many many years, and is one of the leading researchers. His book has lots of information about a particular pack he was studying, plus lots of info on the dogs in general, and has GREAT photos...some of the best AWD pictures I've seen.