Good reads – Raw Rainforest Photography Tours – Reading List

General Rainforest Books

A Neotropical Companion
Second edition
by John Kricher and Mark Plotkins
We highly recommend this book as a broad introduction to the ecology of the new-world tropical rainforests. This enjoyable book will peak your curiosity prior to travel, and with it’s well done index, will allow you to follow up on experiences you have during your Raw Rainforest Photo tour. This is a general text and not a field guide per-say. The last chapter, entitled “Deforestation and Conservation of Diversity” mirrors our concern at Raw Rainforest Photography Tours.

Tropical Nature: Life and Death in the Rain Forests of Central and South America
by Adrian Forsyth and Ken Miyata
One review states that “…Miyata and Forsyth write a masterpiece that will make the reader feel smarter after reading it.” There are seventeen chapters covering such diverse and charismatic topics of the rainforest as mimicry, camouflage, how trees find sunlight amid the crowded forest, etc. One section gives helpful advice on how to hike in the rainforest. A bit more technical than Kricher and Plotins book, it is still in print and very popular 25 years after its first publication.

Culture Shock! Ecuador: A Survival Guide to Customs and Etiquette
by Nicholas Crowder
This book joins a new series that prepare tourists for intercultural relations abroad. Author Crowder lived in Ecuador for over 20 years, and discusses specific customs, cultural expectations and etiquette which will help tourists to transition into the Ecuadorian lifestyle.

Wildlife Field Guides

The Birds of Ecuador, Vol. 2: Field Guide
by Robert S. Ridgely and Paul J. Greenfield
This is the first field guide covering Ecuador’s incredible 1600 species of birds. The information provided on appearance, habitat, behavior and voice is gleaned from Ecuador’s most experienced birders. The color plates, all by artist Guy Tudor, are consistently detailed. The maps showing distribution also include altitude information, which is very useful when moving up and downslope through cloud forest.

This is a massive text at over three pounds. The book’s most useful section is bound conveniently in the center of the book. A common practice now among bird enthusiasts and guides is to remove this section and have it bound separately, making for a manageable “field guide” which can be carried in a daypack. Upon return from your trip, it is simply inserted back into it’s original cavity.

Ecuador is home to roughly half the bird species in all of South America, so this book is useful throughout the Amazon basin and upper South America. Volume I provides more detail on occurence and distribution and general biogeographical information. Purchase both volumes here.

Bird Vocalizations from Ecuador
by John V. Moore,

Typically, the birds of the neotropical rainforest are more often heard than seen. These professionally recorded bird vocalizations, used with a field guide, will help you to learn the various sounds of rainforest birds.

These two publications address the two major regions featured on our “Cloud Forest to Añangu” photography tour. Each set consists of 1) a CD containing all vocalizations in MP3 format announced in English, with each track containing a single file of all vocalizations for each species, and 2) a data DVD containing a separate MP3 file for each individual vocalization without announcements. Also included is a comprehensive booklet in both digital (PDF and Excel) and hard copy format, containing recording and location information for each cut.

The Birds of Northwest Ecuador, Volume 1: The Upper Foothills and Subtropics
by Olaf Jahn, John V. Moore, Niels Krabbe, Patricio M. Valenzuela, Paul Coopmans, Mitch Lysinger, Lelis Navarette, Jonas Nilsson, and Robert S. Ridgely.

The mid-elevation montane and premontane forests of northwest Ecuador, which includes our Bellavista Cloud Forest Reserve location, support a wealth of birdlife, including a large number of species and subspecies endemic to the exceptionally rich “Chocó Faunal Region.” This important biogeographic area extends northward into western Colombia.

This is the first audio publication to feature a large number of these endemics. This product presents 1128 separately announced recordings of 213 species and includes the sounds of nearly all the birds predominantly inhabiting the humid life zones of the upper foothills and lower subtropics on the northwestern Andean slope of Ecuador.

The Birds of Eastern Ecuador, Volume 2: The Lowlands
by John V. Moore, Niels Krabbe, Mitch Lysinger, Daniel F. Lane, Paul Coopmans, Jiovanny Rivadeneyra, and Robert S. Ridgely, with special contributions by José Hualinga and Oscar Tapuy


The authors of this great collection of bird vocalizations present 2317 separate sound recordings of 564 species. Included are the sounds of nearly all the birds predominantly inhabiting the life zones of Ecuador’s eastern lowlands and essentially every bird occuring in the Añangu forests, lagoons, rivers and islands.

Neotropical Rainforest Mammals: A Field Guide (2nd Edition)
by Louise H. Emmons and Francois Feer

This is the most complete guide to rainforest mammals and written in a non-technical fashion. Raw Rainforest enjoys the naturalistic drawings and short descriptions which appear on opposing pages. There is a nice glossary of terms for those new to studying wildlife. As you travel in South America, it is helpful to write in the local Spanish and indigenous names for wildlife.

Frogs and Amphibians of Amazonian Ecuador
(Free PDF download)
by Martín R. Bustamante and the Environmental and Conservation Programs of the Field Museum, Chicago
Eighty species of frogs are featured in this four page photographic guide, including several of the “poison-dart” or “jewel” frogs found in Yasuní National Park. The field guide was produced by tropical ecologist Robin Foster and Tyana Wachter, with the generous support of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. Download the full PDF version for free from the website of the Field Museum in Chicago, Illinois.

by Santiago Ron, Martín Bustamante,
Luis Coloma and Belén Mena
A beautiful coffee-table book featuring a full 256 pages with full-color photographs and illustrations. The authors are Ecuadorian biologists and four of the world’s leading specialists in the herpetofauna of Ecuador, one the most biologically-diverse nations in the world. The large photographs are sprinkled with text which introduces the reader to the natural history of tropical amphibians.

The Amphibians and Reptiles of Estación Biológica Jatun Sacha: A guide to the Herpetofauna of Amazonican Ecuador
(Release Date: December 2009)

By Gregory O. Vigle, Paul S. Hamilton and Ryan J. Sawby

This is a comprehensive photographic guide to the identification, biology and natural history of 162 species of reptiles and amphibians found at the Jatun Sacha Biological Station, located in upper Amazon basin of Ecuador. Produced by a team of herpetologists, it is ideal for captioning photographs.

Each species is fully illustrated in color, and many species are represented with multiple photographs illustrating within-species variation. Written by a team of herpetologists, it is designed for a wide audience. Biologists, natural history buffs and nature photographers needing accurate captions will field guide very useful.

Indigenous Self-Determination / Environmental Justice

Drama Bajo El Manto Amazonico/Crisis Under The Canopy
by Randall Smith
Canadian Randy Smith spent two years with the Huorani people of Amazonian Ecuador. He became instrumental in the demarcation of the Huorani lands, a month-long project which united several Huorani communities and established their tribal boundaries against the encroachment of foreign interests.

This book examines the problems of early tourism in the Ecuadorian Amazon, most specifically in the Huaorani Reserve, with insights from the perspective of both tourists and recently contacted Huorani communities. Smith’s work was pivotal to reforming tourism operations and the movement to sustainable tourism in Amazonian Ecuador.

Crude Reflections / Cruda Realidad: Oil, Ruin and Resistance in the Amazon Rainforest
English/Spanish (Release date: October 2009)
by Lou Dematteis and Kayana Szymczak
Photographers Lou Dematteis and Kayana Szymczak have chronicled the physical and emotional outcomes for those affected by the contamination of oil development in this region of northeast Amazonian Ecuador. A landmark legal case is now in the courts of Ecuador examining Chevron’s oil-drilling practices. The area of impact is estimated to be 30 times the size of the zone affected by the widely-reported Exxon Valdez spill. The book features first hand accounts of cancer and birth deformities continuing in the affected communities.

However, there is a positive message in the promising movement for environmental justice stemming from these events. It is an important read as one considers efforts of indigenous communities throughout Amazonian Ecuador to preserve their place-based culture and resist the economic lure of the petroleum industry, and it forms a major undercurrent in rainforest conservation discussions today.

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