by Trevor Carnaby
Book review by Johan Rothmann – 31 August 2018
To become a field guide in Southern Africa, one has to successfully complete a number of academic courses and practical evaluation sessions. The theory includes subjects such as Mammals, Birds, Reptiles, Amphibians, Invertebrates, Plants, Field signs, Tracking, Geology, Astronomy, Management practices, and more. This is quite a mouthful, or rather, a memory full of a lot of information. This latest book in the Beat About The Bush series by Trevor Carnaby provides wildlife enthusiasts with all the questions and answers that field guides will experience on all these subjects, in one single book.

The format is similar to the other successful books in the Beat About The Bush series: general questions that people will ask when in the wild, followed by extensive, user friendly and easy to read answers, supported by more than 1,500 illustrating photographs. The comprehensive and detailed index at the back of the book, makes the book very easy to use. For example, if you want to understand Pangolins better, the index will refer you to all the pages where something about Pangolins is discussed. You don’t need to search through the Contents, or page through the book to find it.

Previous books in the Beat About The Bush series included dedicated books on Mammals and Birds. Although those books may be more comprehensive about its subjects, this book includes multiple subjects in one single book. Welcome new additions in this book are the sections on Reptiles, Amphibians, Invertebrates, Plants, Field signs and clues, and the Environment that includes Climate, Geology, Astronomy, Animal diseases, and Management practices.

The following are examples of some of the questions raised and answered in the book:
Is it true that cheetahs are not true cats ?
Is it true that female hyenas have male genitals ?
Are birds programmed with their calls or do they need to learn them ?
How do snake eagles protect themselves from being bitten by snakes ?
How do you know which fruit is edible ?
What is the tallest southern Africa tree species ?
How do you know what predator made a kill if it is not there ?
Why does the moon rise later each night ?

Trevor Carnaby has been a field guide with a FGASA Level III SKS (Dangerous Game) accreditation in South Africa and Botswana since 1990. This led him to start the BEAT ABOUT THE BUSH tourism services company in 2005, offering private safaris into East and Southern Africa. Trevor is also a very enthusiastic photographer and most of the photos in this book were taken by himself. Some of his books are prescribed material for guide training academies in South Africa.
If you have an interest in animal behaviour, birds, environment, and nature, this is one book that you should have. It is not a book that you will read once and then put it in your bookshelf. You will consult it every time you travel to interesting places in the wild. At home, it may become a valuable source of information when your children and grandchildren ask difficult questions about nature.


by Trevor Carnaby (
First edition 2017, released January 2018.
Soft cover with 620 pages 235x165mm.
Published by Jacana Media (
ISBN: 978-1-4314-2075-9
Price at the time of this review (Aug 2018): R450 including VAT.