New Book Review: A Field Guide to the Tracks & Signs of Southern, Central & East African Wildlife
Have you ever been in the field with a guide and wondered how they can glance at a set of tracks and pronounce what species left them and how long ago? Or have you ever been in the field with a guide who has made such prouncements and felt sure he – or she – was wrong? Then look no further because this book – yet again – from the industrious Chris & Mathilde Stuart will help.
The 500 page paperback has a wealth of information on signs of mammals and other wildlife (birds, reptiles and insects) from across the region. It is not all that straightforward to know how best to organise a book like this but the Stuarts have done a great job organising this into a format that should work very well when you are out in the bush.
Half of the book is organised by track type, with clusters of species listed according to whether they have paws, hooves, three toes and so on. Each species – and there are many of them – comes with a brief discussion on distribution and habitat, plus diagrams and photographs of the tracks.
The rest of the book has sections on poop (once again imaginitively organised by shape and size, and not – thankfully – by smell), nests, burrows and other types of evidence of an animal’s presence.
This is a fun read and – even if you decide you don’t have space to take it with you – it would be worth studying I think, especially entries for any target species you might have. I have lost count of how many times I have wandered around a patch of habitat at night – not seeing the animal I was looking for – and becoming increasingly doubtful that the burrows I had seen in the daylight belonged to my quarry as I had earlier thought. Studying this book would provide some reassurance.