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Hooked on Africa
  1. John E. Cooper

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Meat for Mice Ian Keymer 193 pages, paperback, £45. Romney Publications. 2011. ISBN 978 0 9541587 3 6

THIS is a veterinary autobiographical book with a difference. The author, Ian Keymer, a pioneer in the field of zoological medicine, was formerly pathologist at the Zoological Society of London. His book is an account of the 1962 expedition organised by the British Museum (Natural History) to Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia). Appointed to the expedition by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Ian, the only veterinary surgeon in the team, quickly rose to become its leader. The museum staff were charged with collecting skins and other specimens from wild mammals; his own role was to carry out postmortem examinations and to look for zoonoses and diseases transmissible to domesticated animals.

‘Meat for Mice’ is based almost entirely on Ian's diaries, written on the expedition, supplemented with some personal recollections. The book's enigmatic title is not fully explained until page 101, but its meaning starts to become apparent to the perceptive reader as references gradually appear to the payment of local African children in return for their catching wild rodents for the expedition's research project.

The book is attractively illustrated with charming line drawings and paintings, including an attractive montage of fish and zebras, entitled ‘biodiversity’, by Janet Keymer. Other welcome touches include regular explanations of technical terms in lay English which, together with a glossary, make the scientific details far more comprehensible to non-medical readers.

Those who know Africa will …

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