Reptile Ravings

     

 A Guide to Australian Dragons in Captivity - Book Review By Mark Hawker Narooma, New South Wales

Friday, October 26, 2012

I recently received a copy of this book from the Publisher, Reptile Publications and was invited to provide a review of its content. May I say at the outset I was tremendously excited to be actually getting a copy of the book sent to me and was not disappointed in any way when it arrived.

 

Having been a reptile keeper for more than 40 years and exclusively keeping Australian dragons for the last 20 years, I am always on the lookout for anything that gives me more information about Australian dragons. The opportunity to peer review a wel-respected fellow keeper’s literary work was not lost on me and turned out to be an absolute pleasure.

From the colourful front cover with the 4 beautiful images of the animals pictured to the rear cover where we see a wonderful shot of the rare Diporiphora superba, the book for me was a riveting and engrossing read. It is a departure from most of the works that have been appearing over the last few years in that it is not a field guide for identification of species but a concise guide on how to maintain this family of reptiles in captivity.

The book I received is a soft cover and contained 296 pages of jam packed information. Information includes sections on husbandry from basic concepts that most keepers already know through to advanced methods for managing various husbandry issues. There is a terrific section on food and nutritional requirements for this group of lizards and there is additional information on how to start and maintain breeding colonies of various live food items.

I was particularly interested in the section on lighting and heating as I know most dragon keepers would be and I was very impressed with how Danny handled this area of the various group husbandry requirements. One of the highlights is the chapter on diseases and disorders. It clearly demonstrates the author’s professional status as a trained veterinary scientist. This section is a wealth of information that will be useful for anybody who references it.

I am also particularly impressed with the section on breeding in the first half of the book. It encompasses hints on stimulating mating behaviour and activity, sexing captive individuals, nests and their importance, through to egg incubation and determining egg viability. There is further breeding information in the second half of the book that covers individual genera and their species that are found in captive populations around Australia.

The pictorial content is excellent. The photos are relevant, clear, colourful and plentiful. If I was forced to make a comment that related to how the book could be improved, I would suggest perhaps the use of a darker or slightly heavier font for the text. But then that is probably just my eyesight and most younger readers will have no issue at all with the text type.

Some elements of the book’s contents will no doubt cause debate and could engender some controversy amongst the taxonomic community with the use of Intellagama as the genus containing the two water dragon subspecies lesueurii lesueurii and lesueurii howitti. Not being a taxonomist or geneticist myself I have no idea whether Intellagama is correct or not. That is for others to argue.

What I find particularly refreshing and indeed gratifying is the use of Diporiphora as the genus that contains the species nobbi. I believe this is probably the first publication of this type intended for general public consumption that actually references and indeed acknowledges what many of us have thought for years and was further enhanced by Jane Melville and her colleagues a few years ago with their DNA study of this species.

I would like to conclude by saying this book exceeds what it set out to do, which was provide a useful reference for keeping Australian dragon lizards in a captive environment. It actually achieves much more than that.

Because the format of the book is dedicated to one family of lizards it actually allows for more information to be included in its three hundred odd pages than would otherwise be achieved in a 600-plus page work covering all the known families of reptiles in Australia. The result for the dragon fancier who is the targeted reader of this work is a book that quite literally you cannot put down and one that you will read from front to back and then again. There will be no skipping over pages or chapters in this book as is very often the case with other more generalised books on reptile husbandry.

I absolutely and thoroughly recommend this book to anybody who has an interest in Australian dragon lizards—it has gone straight to the top of the pile as one of my favorite reptile books in my own library.

Reviewed by Mark W Hawker
20 October 2012





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