Did you know that the geometric tortoise is critically endangered? Or that the Albany adder is restricted to a small population in Algoa Bay and nothing is known of its reproduction or venom? Want to know more? The new Pocket Guide Snakes and Other Reptiles of Southern Africa should be on your next-to-read list.

Pocket Guide Snakes and Other Reptiles of Southern Africa-Western Green Snake-Bill Branch

Western green snakes inflate their throats when threatened. Interesting is that females sometimes nest together in rotting vegetation. Pictures by Bill Branch

“With increasing public concern for the environment, and the emergence of the ‘citizen scientist’, interest in less fashionable wildlife such as reptiles and amphibians has increased,” writes herpetologist Bill Branch in his new book Pocket Guide Snakes and Other Reptiles of Southern Africa. And this helpful, easy and up-to-date guide is just what you need to spot, identify and treasure our country’s reptiles.

Pocket Guide Snakes and Other Reptiles of Southern Africa offers helpful descriptions, distribution maps and colourful images of 276 of South Africa’s snake and reptile species. The guide also indicates which species are endangered in the wild, and which snakes are venomous. It’s compact enough to slip into your backpack or camera case, so you can keep it to hand in the field.

Snakes are categorised into groups such as adders and vipers, racers and relatives, and cobras and relatives. In the lizard section you will find categories for skinks, old world lizards, agamas, geckos and chameleons, among others. Finally the author focuses on chelonians: land tortoises, sea turtles and side-necked terrapins. If you are crazy about crocs, you might be disappointed as only one species is included in the book – the Nile crocodile is the only crocodile found in Southern Africa.

Pocket Guide Snakes and Other Reptiles of Southern Africa-Cape Dwarf Chameleon-Krystal Tolley

Cape dwarf chameleon by Krystal Tolley

Interesting facts

  • The leopard tortoise lays up to six clutches of 6-15 eggs in summer.
  • Ocellated geckos curl their fat tails around their bodies like a happy cat when at rest.
  • The Kunene racer is a very rare snake and is only known from three specimens (one of which escaped).

Pocket Guide Snakes and Other Reptiles of Southern Africa by Bill Branch. Struik Nature (2016). R150.