“... no country in the world abounds in a greater degree with dangerous beasts than southern Africa” - Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man
This fascinating book discusses the animal, starting with the largest land mammal, including some interesting newspaper articles and photographs of victims where such exist, or in the case of the man teasing a lion, a potential victim, and then gives tips for avoiding trouble as well as some of the medical information for treating the likely condition arising from an unpleasant encounter with the animal or insect concerned. Highly readable, this is an excellent mix of the sensational and good old fashioned common sense. Domestic animals are included, and having once been chased by a pig intent on murder (and having lost a new pair of pants to the barbed fence which I vaulted in my effort to get away) I understood perfectly that domestic pigs are far more likely to maim and kill than wild ones are. Sea creatures are also discussed and there is a wonderful series of pictures, one of which features a human framed by shark jaws under the title “Teeth on a conveyor belt”.
Venomous animals get their own section, and princesses who are looking for their princes will do well to read which frogs and toads are kissable and which not. Snakes, local and exotic, get quite intensive treatment and the section on prevention and treatment of snake bites is worth a read, especially if one is inclined to phobia where these creatures are concerned. Insects and other creatures which carry deadly diseases get their own section. The mosquito carries more diseases than just malaria, a fact which I did not know until I read this book. The much maligned bat is only implicated in approximately 1.2 deaths per year (six deaths in five years), and readers are urged not to persecute bats.
Africa's most dangerous animal, the human being, is not ignored. In the section dealing with poisoning, human interventions and industrial pollution are discussed. At the very beginning of the book the situation of war and traffic accidents, as well as the socio-economic effects of poverty and the lack of political will to deal with malaria and HIV, are mentioned. In a table dealing with death rates for South Africa lifestyle diseases also factor into this equation, although not specifically highlighted.
The final section of the book is one on first aid. It was to this one that I first turned. The information on CPR is spot-on and up-to-date. This includes the photographs, although there was a slightly bent arm there of which I, a first aid instructor, did not quite approve. If that section had been wrong I wouldn't have trusted anything else in the book. I dipped into and browsed through the rest of the book over a period of a few days – it is that kind of book rather than one where one commences at chapter one and works through to the end. The little bit of medical information which relates purely to first aid was always accurate. No reason not to trust the rest.
The authors have numerous other books on wildlife to their credit. Chris is a field ecologist and Mathilde is a medical doctor. A sensible approach to game viewing is encouraged throughout. Readers are urged to report game guides who attempt to interact with wild animals or behave in ways which endanger them and their their passengers whilst out on game drives.
I make a mental note to pack it when I head out to the Kruger National Park for the Christmas break. It's that kind of book.
Title: Dangerous Creatures of Africa
Authors: Chris and Mathilde Stuart
Publisher: Struik Nature
Recommended Selling Price: R290.00
I was a Bat Pup!