About the Book
This is the history of the development of a childhood passion into an international career in crocodile conservation. It is also a book about the making of a field biologist, of a boy who never finished school but devoured books on natural history – and who was trained in the field by skilled Zulu naturalists in the now underrated art of paying close and sustained attention to the natural world. Tony is one of a handful of conservationists who have succeeded in describing the tough, challenging days of early wildlife conservation in South Africa with a forthright commitment and dedication to conservation, but also great sensitivity to the natural world, and empathy with the humans affected by conservation with its admixture of harmful and uplifting impacts and consequences. This book is above all the story of the struggle to learn more about the much maligned and secretive Nile crocodile (Crocodylus niloticus), and to convince the authorities and the public of its right to survive in the continent’s protected waterways. Along the way, the reader learns a great deal about crocodile biology and behaviour, most notably Tony’s findings on crocodilian parental care. Readers of Discoveries of a Crocodile Man will learn much about the ecological relations of crocodiles with their fellow creatures in their particular environments. Discoveries also provides insights into the lost world of Zululand in the 1950s-70s, both ecologically and socially. Tony narrates his struggles to care for captive crocodiles, at his three crocodile research facilities where he pioneered techniques in captive rearing. The intention was to restock Zululand’s then declining populations. We also learn about Tony’s attempts to convince the public to tolerate crocodiles, in the face of widespread prejudices, negative cultural beliefs, and of course attacks on humans and domestic animals. This Second edition includes a new introduction providing further biographical information and historical context.