Chimaira A Quest to African Herpetology

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Chimaira A Quest to African Herpetology

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Chimaira A Quest to African Herpetology

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Frankfurt am Main March 2018, softcover, 253 pages, 120 illustrations, most of them in colour. Edited by Jens Reissig and with a Preface by Prof. Aaron M. Bauer (Villanova University). Don Broadley is universally regarded as the "godfather" of modern African herpetology. With more than six decades of active research based in Zimbabwe, Don's career has been at the nexus of the field since shortly after his arrival in Africa. In his autobiography, Don presents the many details that have made up his life in herpetology. His numerous field trips, their participants and the reptiles and amphibians collected are all outlined in the orderly fashion that has characterised his many technical publications. Documented too are his first contacts with herpetologists around the world. This reveals how central Don has been to research programs near and far, providing data, specimens and expertise to a tremendous number of researchers and facilitating the last half century's growth in African herpetology. In Umtali and then in Bulawayo, Don built one of the largest collections of amphibians and reptiles in Africa, with its greatest strengths in the Zambesiaca region, incorporating Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique, and Botswana ? areas where most of Don?s own field trips and those of his close associates generally took place. Today, because of Don, the collection in Bulawayo, one of the largest in Africa, it is rich in type material and the Museum?s journal Arnoldia is known to herpetologists around the world. Because of Don's centrality to herpetology, this book is a chronicle of the discovery of the herpetofauna of southeastern Africa. Stories from many of Don?s field trips, such as his run-in with a lioness in Botswana, have become legendary. His snake bites are even more storied ? from a stiletto snake bite only a few months after arriving in Rhodesia, to the 1960 puff adder bite that cost him his middle finger, to the boomslang bite that necessitated the transfusion of 13 pints of blood. All are documented in this book. Don was an unassuming man, yet his life was anything but uneventful and his contributions were many. And all of this was achieved against the backdrop of hardships that life in Rhodesia/Zimbabwe have brought. From the war of independence to hyperinflation, Don persevered, driven by his abiding fascination with the African herpetofauna. Whether the reader is a longtime friend of Don?s or someone for whom the name Broadley is familiar only from the literature cited of innumerable papers, this book will provide new insights into an extraordinary life in herpetology.

Don Broadley's autobiography starts off by telling us a little about his childhood and his teenage years, which he spent in England in the 1930s and 1940s. Some stories about the Second World War are also mentioned, especially one of a German bomber plane which he inspected after it had been shot down. Then it moves on to the first few years after his schooling and whilst he was doing his National Service in the Royal Air Force. His early explorations in Dorset testify to his interest in the local herpetofauna. Soon after this his plan to go to Africa started to fall into place. A Quest for African Herpetology documents his scientific work since the mid-1950s, until shortly before his death in 2016.

He has corresponded with many colleagues for decades. The number of people with whom he has been in contact during this period and of which he reports in this book, lies around the 400 mark. The major role players in his development are also mentioned here. It is not just herpetologists with whom he corresponded, but also many other scientific individuals throughout the world. The Zambia expedition can be mentioned here as an example. This he did with Woody Cotterill, a mammologist and Karen Esler, a botanist. They spent many weeks on the road together and thus allow the reader explore a wide aspect of the flora and fauna of the region around the source of the Zambezi.

Many observations and notes were also made available from game wardens or passionate amateurs who were interested in herpetology. Many may thus not have been heard of by the herpetological community in the past.

However, roughly two-thirds of the names mentioned in the book are indeed herpetologist, which are based throughout the world. One could say that there were hardly any herpetologists who were active during the second half of the 20th century that did not correspond with Don Broadley. Especially those that were working on African herpetofauna. Don Broadley's radius however extends far beyond the region which he himself had actively explored.

A Quest for African Herpetology also documents some of his premier field trips and vast collection of species throughout his life. Many of which he described himself, are talked about.