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FIELD GUIDE TO THE ANTELOPE (article first published : 2005-10-6)

In 1974, the Natal Branch of the Wildlife Society launched its Wildlife Handbook series – books written in simple layman’s terms and each dealing with some specific aspect of conservation.

The first title was A Field Guide To The Antelope Of Southern Africa and it turned out to be an amazing success: there have been 11 reprints and revisions since then and 85,000 copies of the book have been sold.

The book grew from a series of lectures that Dr “Nolly” Zaloumis, then the chairman of the Natal Branch of the Society, gave as part of the University of Natal’s adult education programme in 1973. For these lectures he had worked out a unique identification key – based on the horns, body size and shape of each antelope - to pinpoint each of the 33 indigenous species that occur south of the Zambezi and Cunene Rivers.

The lectures were a great success and afterwards there were plenty of requests for Nolly’s notes. A friend of Nolly’s, former journalist Rob Cross, started work on the text that incorporated the basic information from the University lectures and which also considerably extended and amplified it. From the beginning, Rob worked closely with Durban artist Lyndsay Maritz, who turned Nolly’s drawings – originally created for the overhead projector transparencies he had used for the lectures – into elegant illustrations as well as providing many more fine drawings, while the Branch’s Photographic Section managed to beg and borrow colour slides of the various antelope species.

The book had no budget at all and the Natal Publications Committee had to raise the total sponsorship for the first edition, which was published in 1974, with a print order of 10,000. A complimentary copy was sent to each member of the Natal Branch with the October 1974 issue of Natal Wildlife, the regional magazine, and the rest were put on sale at the princely sum of R1!

The book was an enormous success and was sold out within a year. Since then there have been numerous reprints but a few years ago it was decided to ask Rob and Nolly to rethink an entirely new edition with new photographs. They worked on the text until a few days before Nolly’s death in 2003 and after that, Rob worked alone, collaborating with top graphic designer Michael Viljoen and the husband-and-wife photographic team Peter and May Craig-Cooper who have provided more than 100 outstanding new colour pictures of antelope.

The 124 page A5-size Field Guide has been designed to slip into a pocket and, in addition to detailed descriptions of each species, carries information on distribution, preferred habitat, habits and details of voice, longevity, breeding, gestation, weight and voice.

The new book is available as a paperback edition at R89.95 while a hardcover version, bound in recycled leather with a dust jacket, is R139.95. Both editions will be on sale in bookstores, in the provincial and private game reserves in KZN or can be ordered by post from WESSA-KZN at 100 Brand Road, Durban, 4001. (Please add R10 for postage and packing).




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