Herpetology – Is the study of amphibians and reptiles and is derived from the Greek “herpein” meaning to creep.
The department of Herpetology was established in 1956, following the appointment of Donald G. Broadley (see Past Curators) as Honorary Curator of Herpetology when the national collections consisted of less than 1000 specimens.
Extensive field work in Zimbabwe, Botswana, Malawi and Mozambique built up the collections. At present these collections hold close to 52 000 specimens, which include 95 primary types and 966 paratypes. It is the second largest collection of African Herpetofauna after the Transvaal Museum in South Africa although it is more comprehensive in scope and covers most of the Zambesiaca region.
Most of the collections are stored in 70% alcohol except the large snakes and lizards which are in 5% formalin. There is also a small collection of tanned skinned which include crocodile skins, python skins and stuffed rock and water monitors, as well a small collection of skeletal material mainly of tortoise shells, a number of lizards, snakes, turtles and crocodiles.
Researchers from different parts of the world can use the collection. Loans can be requested by museum staff or those affiliated to museums and for a period of six months.
The late Dr Broadley took meristic and morphometric data all specimens in good condition in the museum collection as well as from specimens from other institutions either during visits or while the specimens were on loan. The data sheets are available upon request.
With the evident global warming, destruction and fragmentation of habitats, more studies on the biodiversity of the herpetofauna coupled with habitat changes especially for the engendered species, such as those of the Eastern Highlands – a known “hotspot” – is the focus of the future. Molecular studies where possible will also be done.
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