x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Arabian Wildlife Encyclopedia aims to engage young

The new book, which goes on sale in less than a fortnight, seeks to encourage readers nine to 19 to appreciate nature.

The first comprehensive guide to Arabian wildlife written for children and teenagers goes on sale in less than a fortnight.

The Arabian Wildlife Encyclopaedia seeks to encourage readers aged nine to 19 to appreciate nature with 240 pages of entries that range from the Arabian oryx to the zebra shark.

The book will be published on December 15 and adds a splash of colour to the largely academic body of literature available on local flora and fauna, much of it written by scientists for scientists and too dense for the general reader.

"A lot is available, but it is not in the popular format, so you cannot go to Magrudy's or any other bookshop and ask for a book," said Paul Vercammen, operations manager at the Breeding Centre for Endangered Arabian Wildlife in Sharjah.

"Spreading the news of scientific findings for the popular reader - it's a good thing," he said.

Previous publications about Arabia have tackled narrower scopes, he explained. Reference guides available today separately cover insects, snakes and birds. Two major works last printed 20 years ago, called Mammals of Arabia and Arabian Mammals, were geared towards scientists.

In the new encyclopaedia, entries were designed to interest lay readers rather than provide every last detail. A fact box on the Arabian hare, for example, is posted next to a large colour picture and explains the creature has such large ears to locate other animals and to cool itself.

A scientific publication might have detailed the measurements of the appendage, the length of the fur and so on, "which isn't really much help to the general public", explained Peter Vine, the director of the book's publishers, Trident Press.

The pages are peppered with fact boxes, including such details as falcons can see objects the size of a compact disc from 1.5km away.

Glossaries define terms such as "cyanobacteria", or blue-green algae, and "pectoral fin". Warning boxes instruct readers to soak venomous fish stings in hot water, and "learn more" boxes list related online links.

Accompanying the book is an interactive website that lets readers find out more about particular species and post their own photos and blog entries.

Mr Vine first tried to provide a popular reference book in 2005 with the help of 34 expert authors; it was called The Emirates: A Natural History.

But the end result - a weighty 340-page oversized hardback - still seemed too academic, he said.

His team of three writers and designers took the scientific research - much of it drawn from the previous volume - and boiled it down to even more readable bites.

"We're living in an increasing urbanised society, where young people are much less connected with wildlife and nature," Mr Vine said. "There hasn't been anything to put on the table and say, 'Look, this is what we've got'."