Herpetologists are zoologists who specialize in the study of reptiles and amphibians, for example snakes, lizards, crocodiles, and frogs.
Herpetology can be split into two broad categories:
Basic herpetologists study the origin of these animals, their interrelationships with other species, how they are affected by the environment, their behaviour, growth and development, genetics and distribution. They sometimes also work in museums as taxonomists where they are responsible for naming and classifying species.
Applied herpetologists work as curators of reptile parks or in the reptile sections in zoos, and in other positions managing the breeding of reptiles and amphibians.
This work may also entail working in positions which require educating the public with regard to these species. As this is a highly specialised field, the advice of herpetologists is often sought by the media or by medical teams in the treatment of snakebite victims.
This field does offer some entrepreneurial possibilities with regard to writing articles and appearing on nature conservation programmes on television, but it is unlikely that this would be a full-time option.
Compulsory school subjects: Mathematics and Physical Science.
Recommended subjects: Life Sciences.
Each institution has its own entry requirements.
Degree: BSc (Zoology) - all universities, followed by BSc Honours (Herpetology).
Post-graduate studies are essential for basic herpetology and senior positions in applied herpetology.
Diploma: N.Dip and N.H.Dip: Nature Conservation, e.g. CPUT, TUT, NMMU, UNISA.
Diplomas will only qualify you for assistant positions in zoos and reptile parks, most of which provide in-service training for university of technology graduates.
A BTech degree in Nature Conservation could lead to better positions
The Zoological Society of SA
Department of Zoology
University of KwaZulu-Natal