Dale Peterson Karl Ammann
University of California Press, 2013 ($39.95)
Because the spindly-legged creatures had camel-like faces atop impossibly long, leopard-print necks, Greeks in Ptolemaic Egypt called them “camelopards.” They were known as “tsu-la” to the Tang Dynasty Chinese and as “zarafa” to Arabs in the Middle Ages. Today we call them “giraffes,” but our timeless fascination with these majestic animals remains unchanged. Peterson, a nature writer, has teamed with Ammann, a wildlife photographer, to present the natural and cultural history of giraffes in this elegant and comprehensive volume. In a series of lushly visual essays, the authors delve into the evolution of giraffes' strange anatomy and the intricacies of their behavior, as well as their possible futures alongside humans. Marvelously—and despite the book's encyclopedic presentation—giraffes become even more mysterious by the tome's end than they were at its beginning.