This book packs an impressive amount of information in a compact and light package. A typical visitor to the region should be able to identify most of what he sees with this book. Inter alia, each species account has a nice size range map, a section on how to differentiate similar species, one or two photos, diagrams showing tracks and the size of the animal compared to a human, habitat, behavior, food, detailed measurements, etc. There is also a useful collection of photos to facilitate dung identification.
There are a few drawbacks, however. Some of these are to be expected in any compact guide, though others could have been easily remedied:
- Most species are represented with a single photograph, though in a few cases there are two photographs, usually when sexes differ, as in antelopes where females usually have no horns. A single photograph can only show one side of an animal and obviously can't show individual variation. In some cases the photographs do not show key features, e.g. photograph of a Dwarf Mongoose does not show its tail even though the text indicates differences in the tail are important to distinguishing it from Slender Mongoose.
- Only two species can be viewed at once; so you have to flip between pages in many cases to compare similar species.
- There's no way to assess the relative sizes of the animals from the photos (though the diagrams at the bottom comparing size to a human do allow you to infer the differences)
- There is no list of species covered in the table of contents; so to find a particular species you either have to flip through the book or check the index.
- There is no discussion of mammal taxonomy, nor an explanation of how the species are ordered in the book. They are simply lumped into various categories such as primates, zebras, rhinoceros, antelope, carnivores, etc.
- The text is fairly dry
- I've noted a few species that a visitor to South Africa might easily encounter that are not included in the guide. These include Red Bush Squirrel, Humpback Whale, Slogget's Vlei (Ice) Rat, and Peters' Epauletted Fruit Bat. (The last is actually mentioned several times in the discussion of Wahlberg's Epauletted Fruit Bat, but there is no discussion of how to distinguish the two, and Peters is not listed in the index even though it is referenced.)
- Easiest way I've found to differentiate African Civet from the similar looking Genets is that the former has a dark facial mask (like a No. Am. raccoon). But this is not mentioned in the text--it just says Genets are smaller with longer tail and shorter legs.