This is the book that many wished Alfred Leutscher’s earlier Vivarium Life, in its two editions, could have been. It is a description of how to keep these animals. Unfortunately, by the time it came out, it was dated. Some of the vivarium designs, which I think he had used, date back to Bateman in the 19th Century; some are bizarre; others are downright dangerous or unhygienic. For example, nobody who had kept properly-fed young crocodilians would employ the arrangement of a tank he showed for more than a week. By 1976, the revolution in keeping and breeding reptiles was well under way and Leutscher by then was off the pace. There is also the curious omission, repeated from Vivarium Life, of mealworms as a food item. I think the general feeling was regret that he had not produced this book in 1952 instead of Vivarium Life. Potential reptile and amphibian keepers during the 1950s would have had much greater knowledge of the state of the art, at least in Britain, if he had done so.
I was asked the other week if I had ever met Alfred Leutscher and the answer was no. I first went to a British Herpetological Society meeting in summer 1961 during the school holidays. All those attending sat round a large table somewhere upstairs in Burlington House as live specimens were passed round. Since Alfred Leutscher had been the Secretary I thought he would be there. However, George Boyce told me that he had not been seen there for some time.
The most memorable part of that meeting was speaking to the lady sitting next to me. She had a number of large Australian skinks. ‘Where did you get them’, I asked. ‘Oh, my husband is a BOAC pilot and he picked them up from the ground as he walked across the tarmac to the aircraft at Sydney’. Can anybody remember who she was?
You can see the book on the Download page above or here.