Book reviews:    The Safari Companion   

The safari Companion
Richard D. Estes
0 930031 49 0
Chelsea Green Publishing Company
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Also published in South Africa by Russel Friedman Books, ISBN 9 95832223 3 3, and Zimbabwe by Tutorial Press, ISBN 0 7974 1159 3

This is not a field guide in the usual sence. It is not a book that describes all african mammals with photographs or drawings for identification. It is, as the subtitle indicates, a guide to watching african mammals. The book focusses on the behaviour of african mammals. It explains the moves and postures of the mammals and the interaction between mammals living in a social system. If you are going on a safari and you want an easy book for mammal identification, this is not the book for you. Have a look at the Mammals of Southern Africa by the Stuarts instead. The Safari Companion is a book for people who like to study and understand the behavioural patterns of mammals. It can give you an insight into questions like: What is this animal doing and why? For wildlife photographers I regard this book to be indispensable. Together with a great deal of experience this book can help you to learn how to predict animal behaviour. For a wildlife photographer it is essential to know your subject and to be able to predict it's behaviour. What is this animal doing? Why is it doing this and what will it be doing next? These are the kind of questions that this book will help you answer.

The Safari Companion written by Dr. Estes, Associate of Mammalogy at Harvard University, a very experienced zoologist. He describes over 80 species, neatly scientifically organized into orders and families. First there is a chapter about each family, described the general aspects of this family. Then the different species are described in great detail. The setup is usually: What it is, Where it lives, Ecology, Activity, Social/Mating system, Reproduction, Offspring and Parental Care. The text is accompanied by very clear graphics the social system. Furthermore, each species has a table with silhouette drawings of behaviour/posture typical to this species. These drawings are explained by a short but clear text. The books concentrates on mammals found in eastern and southern Africa.

book3b.jpg (34156 bytes)The picture shows an example of the page about the White Rhino. The book is soft cover and slightly bigger than normal Field Guide size. If you are travelling by car it should still be easy to find a spot for it.  If you go on a safari, I would advise to buy this book well in advance. Read it and study it as much as possible before the trip. It will surely enhance your experience in Africa.

For me it was also one of the main study books on animal behaviour for my Field Guide training.





Conclusion: There are no photographs in this book and all drawings are in simple b&w. The real value of this book is not in its art. The content is extremely high quality and the graphics are very easy to understand. This is a book for the serious wildlife enthousiast who wants to learn about animal behaviour. Any wildlife photographer should have this book and keep studying it.

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All text and images 1991 - 2011 Hans Martens