3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Nicely presented but frustrating in many ways..,
This review is from: A Guide to the Reptiles of Southern Africa (Paperback)
I guess its my own fault for buying a guide instead of a field guide. What I wanted was an identification guide to allow me to identify species of reptiles seen in the field in southern Africa. What I got was a nicely presented, quite readable book about reptiles.
It has a nice and informative general introduction before splitting up all the reptiles into groups which are then discussed. Whilst this works well for well-known and infamous species like the venomous snakes and Nile crocodile, some quite large groups such as skinks, sand-lizards and geckos have all the species lumped together and though there are many nice photos of SOME of the species and a full list of the species in each group - the book does NOT tell you how to identify them to species level which kind of defeats the purpose of a book like this. I recognise that many species might be difficult to identify without a specimen in-hand but at the least each species diagnostic features should be described anyway. Some of the species' groups descriptive text is very cumbersome as well and it is not always easy to find what features are most important in telling apart similar species. As an example I was reading the section on cobras with the hope of being able to find out how to tell if you are looking at one of the spitting cobra species or not (quite a useful bit of knowledge I would think) but the descriptions did not provide this information. A section on telling apart similar species would have been highly recommended here. Even more frustratingly the distribution maps are by group rather than for each species, so prove to be fairly useless for the large groups (Especially for those that contain species that are noted to have restricted ranges that again could help in the identification of individual species).
Overall, I'm not sure who this book is aimed at. Its too detailed for a casual wildlife enthusiast who probably doesn't want to know the clutch sizes and scale counts, but not detailed enough for anyone who actually wants to be able to identify the lizards that they see. The photos are very nice though.