Nobody knows exactly how many snake species live in the biodiversity hotspots of Western and Central Africa. While field guides abound that make mammals, birds, and even insects identifiable for residents, travelers, and scientists, half a continent's herpetological richness has remained shrouded in mystery. In a region where nearly 30,000 people die from snake bites every year, even dire medical necessity has been an insufficient inducement for researchers to take on the daunting task of assembling an authoritative list of extant species let alone a full descriptive record to aid in identification, the essential first step to administering an effective antivenin. The reptiles of Central Africa, particularly, are the most poorly studied in the world, despite their crucial role in the survival of threatened ecosystems.
With Snakes of Central and Western Africa, Jean-Philippe Chippaux and Kate Jackson have created a game changer. The result of years of field research and systematic study in the world's leading museums, this book compiles for the first time a comprehensive guide to the region's snakes. Covering a vast swath of the continent, ranging from Mauritania in the northwest to Rwanda in the east and Angola in the south, Chippaux and Jackson provide detailed accounts for the more than 200 species of snakes that inhabit the region.
The first part of Snakes of Central and Western Africa is devoted to the taxonomic characters used for identifying snakes. The authors deal with the evolution and biogeography of African snakes as well as epidemiological and clinical aspects of snakebite. The remaining chapters are organized phylogenetically, following the latest consensus on evolutionary patterns of major snake lineages in sub-Saharan Africa. Species identification is facilitated by simple and accessible dichotomous keys and detailed descriptions of morphological characteristics, complemented by numerous drawings, photos, and distribution maps. Invaluable information on taxonomy and natural history is also included. The book concludes with a comprehensive index and a list of nearly 600 references. Snakes of Central and Western Africa illuminates a previously little-known part of the natural world, provides vital information that could save many lives, and will make an excellent addition to any herpetology library.
Chapter 1. Identification of African Snakes
Chapter 2. Evolution of African Snakes
Chapter 3. Biogeography of African Snakes
Chapter 4. Snakebite in Sub-Saharan Africa
Chapter 5. Families Typhlopidae and Leptotyphlopidae
Chapter 6. Families Boidae and Pythonidae
Chapter 7. Family Viperidae
Chapter 8. Family Elapidae
Chapter 9. Family Lamprophiidae: Subfamilies Atractaspidinae and Aparallactinae
Chapter 10. Family Lamprophiidae: Subfamilies Lamprophiinae, Pseudoxyrhophiinae, and Pseudaspidinae
Chapter 11. Family Lamprophiidae: Subfamilies Psammophiinae and Prosymninae
Chapter 12. Family Colubridae: Subfamily Natricinae
Chapter 13. Family Colubridae: Subfamilies Colubrinae and Grayiinae
Jean-Philippe Chippaux is a director of research at the Institut de Recherche pour le Developpement, a leading expert on venomous snakes and snakebites, and the author of Snake Venoms and Envenomations.
Kate Jackson is an associate professor of biology at Whitman College, a leading expert on African snakes and the herpetology of Central Africa, and the author of the scientific memoir Mean and Lowly Things: Snakes, Science, and Survival in the Congo.
'[...] The clear text is very readable except where technical terminology, which is fully described in Chapter 1, has had to be used. The book is copiously illustrated with black and white figures and mostly coloured photographs, some of which are a little on the dark side. Snakes of Central and West Africa is a comprehensive compilation of information and data on an otherwise understudied but important group. The price of £63 appears about standard for this type of hardback monograph, and it should be readily accessible in the libraries of high schools, universities and public depositories, not only in Africa but across the world."
– Trevor Wilson FLS, The Linnean 36(1), April 2020
"An indispensable addition to the canon of African herpetological literature. Before now, such information was only available in a variety of places; this book brings it all together. In addition to the species accounts, it gives a succinct overview of some most important topics: identification of the region's snakes, their evolution and biogeography, and snakebite in Africa. Every herpetologist, naturalist, and conservationist with an interest in African snake fauna will want a copy."
– Stephen Spawls, coauthor of Field Guide to the Reptiles of East Africa
"Chippaux and Jackson detail the identification, distribution, and natural history of nearly 300 species of snakes found across 25 African countries that together cover more than 13 million km2 (or 5 million mi2). Everyone from specialists in African biodiversity to those simply excited by the diversity of these fantastic animals will enjoy this remarkable synthesis. It is an important publication for our field."
– David Blackburn, Florida Museum of Natural History at the University of Florida
"An outstanding resource for anyone interested in Africa's astonishing diversity of ophidians and an invaluable guide to snake taxonomic characters in general. Meticulously researched and generously illustrated, this book will be an essential guide for any student of African herpetology."
– Eli Greenbaum, University of Texas at El Paso