Book reviews:    Signs of the wild

Signs of the wild
Clive Walker
1 86825 896 3
New edition 1996
Struik Publishers Ltd
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This book is written by Clive Walker, one of the famous people in South African wildlife conservation and education. His name stands for experience in the bush and that is the place where you'll want to use this book. The subtitle of the book is: A field guide to the spoor and signs of the mammals of southern Africa. It is a small (A5 size) field guide about identification of spoor (tracks, or footprints) and droppings (faeces). I bought this book in South Africa in 1996 as part of my Field Guide training, to learn more about the identification of mammal spoor. Although it is written in a popular way, not everybody will by excited by this book. If you go on a safari trip and do not intend to leave your vehicle, you won't have much use for this book. It is intended for people who go on walking safari's and are therefore able to have close looks at animal tracks. For me this is the real safari. Stalking through the bush quietly, paying attention to every detail and try to follow an animal by its tracks. Quite different from doing a one-day-safari by looking at the big five from an airconditioned vehicle.

book9b.jpg (29997 bytes)The setup of the book is very easy and clear. Each species has two pages for itself. (actually there are even 8 pages about the elephant) On the left there is a distribution map with a description of the animal. Besides the english and scientific name, the animal name is also shown in: Afrikaans, Shona, Ndebele, Siswati, Tswana/Sothi, Venda, Lozi, Yei and Nama/Damara. Maybe this is done as a help to local people studying to become guides.

There is a small description about diet and the final fase of the diet, the faeces. Knowing about an animals diet can tell you a lot about the contents of its faeces, which in turn can help identification. Each animal has a drawing of its spoor, sometimes there is also a photograph. And of course there is a large photograph of the animal itself. The photographs are very good quality. In the picture here, you can see an example of an animal, in this case the beautiful Serval (Felis serval).

Compared to the other book on animal tracks reviewed on this website, Tracks & Signs, this book is smaller and has less detailed information. It is however easier to read and use. It concentrates on southern African mammals only, but can still be of use in east Africa. Each book has its merits and once again, on a trip I would like to take both of them with me.

Conclusion: A very nice and systematically setup book about identification of mammal tracks and droppings. Easy to use for a beginner and very handy to take with you into the bush. Ideally for walking safaris. Highly recommended.

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