Book Review - Nile Monitors by Robert Faust
Book Review: from Mampam Conservation © Daniel Bennett, 2002.
Nile Monitors by Robert Faust
95 pages, 84 colour photos and drawings. Published by Barrons, New York.
Rating (out of 10) = 10

Usually the publication of a pet owners' guide to monitor lizards make me shudder with horror. Past publications have all been awful, and the cheaper they are the worse they get. A $7.95 book about the least manageable species regularly available sounded like Bad News. But it is wonderful, the best book anybody could hope for on the subject, and by far the most competent book about monitors in captivity to have been written so far.

Right from the start Faust shatters many myths prevalent in pet guides. This is a very big, very strong lizard, and keeping them is a serious commitment. The author differentiates between the species V. niloticus and V. ornatus right from the start, something that books about savannah monitors have always had trouble with. The captivity section contains the most up to date advice about the need for substrate, adequate temperature and humidty available in print, and the information given is much more valuable than any of its predecessors. He provides clear plans for the construction of outdoor enclosures and incubators, again something that previous authors have neglected (quite possibly because they had never had need of the latter). Advice about diet is commendable, with an emphasis on regular feeding of insects. The breeding section is the first written in North America by somebody who has actually bred the lizards, and what a difference it makes. One of the most refreshing things about this book is the author's readiness to draw attention to mistakes he made with the aim of preventing their repetition. Escapes that resulted in the death of lizards or necessitated the partial demolition of his house, This really is an excellent book.

All this praise goes against the grain in this rather critical set of book reviews but my complaints about this book are very slight: The conservation section puts stress on the heavy exploitation of monitor lizards for leather, infers that the trade is putting wild populations at risk and calls for the trade to be suspended or regulated. The available evidence does not support this view, and considering the very considerable economic importance of the trade to countries such as Chad and Sudan I feel it is unjustified. It is habitat destruction that is responsible for the loss of these species rather than harvesting by humans. But that is as harsh as I can get about this book, the only other errors I noticed were that V. ornatus is missing from Ghana in the distribution map and an incorrect statement that only farmed Nile monitors may be exported from Ghana, in fact V. niloticus is completely protected in Ghana and all trade in the species is prohibited. The text refers to a picture of everted hemipenes that is not included , but I suspect this is due to some overzealous censorship on the part of an editor). Some readers might be frustrated that the book deals mainly with animals kept outdoors, but it will more likely inspire them to do well indoors rather than give up.

Verdict= Absolutely Brilliant!!