A number of studies have attempted to estimate the distribution of some or many of the larger mammals in 'South Africa' during the early historical period.

The first of these is a study by SF du Plessis, described in his 1969 Master's thesis at the University of Pretoria, titled The past and present geographical distribution of the Perissodactyla and Artiodactyla in Southern Africa. This work deals only with the ungulates (including the black rhinoceros and white rhinoceros, but not the African elephant; none of these are true ungulates). This early initiative was followed by two volumes from the zoologist and historian CJ (Jack) Skead, namely Historical mammal incidence in the Cape Province: Vol. 1 – The Western and Northern Cape, published in 1980, with a revised edition being published in 2007, and Historical mammal incidence in the Cape Province: Vol. 2 – The eastern half of the Cape Province, including the Ciskei, Transkei and East Griqualand, published in 1987, with a revised edition being published in 2011.

The two works by Skead were, in turn, followed by two important publications from the zoologist LH (Kees) Rookmaaker, the first being The zoological exploration of southern Africa 1650-1790, published in 1989 by AA Balkema (Rotterdam), and the second being A chronological survey of bibliographical and iconographical sources on rhinoceroses in southern Africa from 1795 to 1875: reconstructing views on classification and changes in distribution, published in 2007 in the Trans. Roy. Soc. Sth Afr. (62:55-198).

In addition, some historical records of mammals that occurred historically in Lesotho are included in a monograph by David Ambrose titled Mammals, including annotated species checklist, published in 2006 by House 9 Publications (Maseru, Lesotho).

Although the general approaches followed in these works differ somewhat, they all make a significant contribution to the science of historical zoo-geography in southern Africa by documenting mammal incidence records from the early historical period, defined here as the period between about 1600 and the 1920s.


Return to the main menu.

Books with detailed information for parts of 'South Africa'