|Muller's Velvet Gecko (Homopholis mulleri) the highligh of the season so far. Photo Ryan van Huyssteen.|
|First Flap-necked Chameleon for the season at Medike. Photo Melissa Petford.|
|Rough-scaled Plated Lizard (Broadlysaurus major) Western Soutpansberg. Photo Ryan van Huyssteen.|
|Sand river scraffito depicting hunters and roan antelope from Sand River shelter, Medike. Photo Ryan van Huyssteen.|
It has been a very busy season for the SCBC so far up in the Soutpansberg. With the beginning of warm weather many interesting animals have been coming up and getting active. Our surveys for this part of the year have really focused on working at night with the nocturnal species. Majority of the night work was done on foot but also we did a fair bit of driving to locate active reptiles. We had a few record nights: one night drive we located 18 snakes (ten species) and on a record night walk we located nine snakes (four species). The most common snakes of the season so far are as follows:
|Eastern Tiger Snake (Telescopus semiannulatus semiannulatus). Photo Melissa Petford.|
|Common Egg-eater (Dasypeltis scabra). Photo Melissa Petford.|
|Variegated Wolf Snake (Lycophidion varigatum) Western Soutpansberg. Photo Ryan van Huyssteen.|
|Puff Adder (Bitis arietans). Photo Melissa Petford.|
|Bibron's Stiletto Snake (Atractaspis bibronii) Western Soutpansberg. Photo Melissa Petford.|
|Brown House Snake (Boedon capensis). Photo Melissa Petford.|
|Mozambique Spitting Cobra (Naja mossambica). Photo Ryan van Huyssteen.|
|Brown Water Snake (Lycodonomorphus rufulus) Western Soutpansberg. Photo Ryan van Huyssteen.|
|Common Slug-eater (Duberia lutrix lutrix) Western Soutpansberg. Photo Ryan van Huyssteen.|
|Stripe-bellied Legless Skink (Acontias kgalagadi subtaeniatus) Northern Soutpansberg. Photo Ryan van Huyssteen.|
|Black-lined Plated Lizard (Gerrhosaurus intermedius) Punda Maria Eastern Soutpansberg. Photo Ryan van Huyssteen.|
|Two-stripped Shovel-snout (Prosymna bivittata). Photo Melissa Petford.|
|Snouted Night Adder (Causus defilippii) Western Soutpansberg. Photo Ryan van Huyssteen.|
|Shield-nosed Cobra (Aspidelaps scutatus scutatus) Western Soutpansberg. Photo Melissa Petford.|
Besides reptiles we recorded some interesting amphibians, birds, mammals (look out for bat post coming soon), plants and scorpions during the period. The season started off very hot and dry with summer rains beginning ‘on time’ in October. So far we have received some very nice rain after a prolonged drought and once again the bush is green and getting thick again with the wet weather hanging around. We hope for a nice wet second half of the season.
|Sand River Valley after some nice summer rains. December 2016. Photo Ryan van Huyssteen.|
|Large herbivores, Punda Maria, Kruger National Park. Photo Melissa Petford.|
|Ironwood Forest (Androstachys johnsonii) Pafuri region Eastern Soutpansberg. Photo Ryan van Huyssteen.|
|Serrated Hinged Terrapin (Pelusios sinuatus), Punda Maria, Kruger National Park. Photo Melissa Petford.|
This season we have also visited a few different localities including the Mopane at Punda Maria (Kruger National Park), the Ironwood Dry Forests of Pafuri, the Afromontane forest and high altitude grassland of Hanglip and Entabeni, the Arid Mountain Bushveld and Swamp Forest at Goro Game Reserve and Bergpan, various habitats at Lajuma and also areas surrounding Waterpoort. Most of our time has been spent between Medike and Lajuma where we are very busy working on assemblages and ecology of reptile species in the western Soutpansberg. Besides all the new species, we also found new localities for many of our already recorded species, the most significant being new localities for Black File Snakes, Soutpansberg Purple-glossed Snake, and Cryptic Dwarf Gecko.
|Rock monitor (Varanus albigularus) Sand River Valley. Photo Ryan van Huyssteen.|
|Soutpansberg form of Northern Dwarf Chameleon (Bradypodion transvaalense). Photo Ryan van Huyssteen.|
|Giant Plated Lizard (Matobosaurus validus). Photo Ryan van Huyssteen.|
|Flat Dragon Lizard (Smaug depressus) western form. Photo Ryan van Huyssteen.|
|Smaug depressus eastern form. Photo Ryan van Huyssteen.|
|Orange-throated Plated Lizard (Gerrhosaurus flavigularus) Blue Phase. Photo Melissa Petford.|
|Bushveld Lizard (Heliobolus lugubris). Pafuri region Eastern Soutpansberg. Photo Melissa Petford.|
In terms of reptiles the highlights were obviously all the new species, but also seeing some rarities such as a live Long-tailed Garter Snake (Elapsoidea sundevallii longicauda), a live Lined Shovel-snout (Prosymna lineata), a new colour morph of the East African Shovel Snout (Prosymna stuhlmannii), an adult Reticulated Centipede Eater (Aparallactus lunulatus lunulatus) and we also saw some very interesting behaviour: one night we found a large Black File Snake (Gonionotophis nyassae) and close behind the animal we found a smaller male trailing it, so there was definitely a receptive female laying down her scent and attracting a male.
|Large female Black File Snake (Gonionotophis nyassae). Photo Melissa Petford.|
|Reticulated Centipede Eater (Aparallactus lunulatus lunulatus) Sand River Valley. Photo Ryan van Huyssteen.|
|Common Centipede Eater (Aparallactus capensis capensis). Photo Melissa Petford.|
|Lined Shovel Snout (Prosymna lineata). Photo Ryan van Huyssteen.|
|Usual phase of East African Shovel-snout (Prosymna stuhlmanni) found in the Soutpansberg. Photo Ryan van Huyssteen.|
|High altitude phase of Prosymna stuhlmanni. Note yellow and blue. Photo Ryan van Huyssteen.|
|Long-tailed Garter Snake (Elapsoidea sundevallii longicauda). Photo Melissa Petford.|
|Common Wolf Snake (Lycophidion capense). Western Soutpansberg. Photo Melissa Petford.|
|Soutpansberg Purple-glossed Snake (Amblyodipsas microthalma nigra). Photo Melissa Petford.|
|Southern African Rock Python (Python natalensis). Photo Ryan van Huyssteen.|
Another behavioural highlight concerned an Eastern Bark Snake (Hemirhagerrhis nototaenia). The Snake was captured and photographed. On release the snake immedietly spotted a dwarf gecko (Lygodactylus capensis) and it went into ambush mode. The distance between the snake and the gecko was about one metre (considering it is a 20cm slow moving snake and a fast moving gecko this is quite far!). The snake began to use it’s tail to lure the gecko nearby. The tail moved like a worm and it certainly caught the gecko’s attention. The gecko watched the tail for a long time, but decided not to go for it and took refuge instead. The snake then slowly moved closer, as nightfall approached it set up an ambush position on a twig right near where the gecko was and waited overnight. The next day the snake was there and as it warmed up it moved off and disappeared back into obscurity where it emerged from.
|Eastern Bark Snake (Hemirhagerrhis nototaenia). Photo Melissa Petford.|
We were also lucky enough to record some colour change in a Soutpansberg Endemic, the Cryptic Dwarf Gecko (Lygodactylus incognitus). The gecko emerged from is refuge early one morning and it was quite dark and speckled. As it heated up in the sun (maybe ten minutes later) it’s colour had changed dramatically. See picture below, top is the gecko as it first emerged and then the bottom depicts it warmed up.
Cryptic Dwarf Gecko (Lygodactylus incognitus). colour change. Photo Ryan van Huyssteen.
|Transvaal Gecko (Pachydactylus affinis). Sand River Valley. Photo Ryan van Huyssteen.|
|Vanson's Gecko (Pachydactylus vansoni) Western Soutpansberg. Photo Melissa Petford.|
|Speckled Gecko (Pachydactylus punctatus). Eastern Soutpansberg. Photo Melissa Petford.|
|Neonate Velvet Gecko (Homopholis wahlbergii). Photo Melissa Petford|
As we are progressing with our project we are beginning to do some work on amphibians. With the nice rains many frogs are coming and out and we are seeing new species for our lists. Currently we are still in the cataloguing phase and doing our lists. Soon we will be looking at assemblages, ecology and also recording breeding choruses throughout the area. Watch this space for more frogs!
|Banded Rubber Frog (Phrynomantis bifasciatus). Photo Ryan van Huyssteen.|
|African Bull Frog (Pyxicephalus adspersus). Northern Soutpansberg. Photo Melissa Petford.|
|Southern Foam Nest Frog (Chiromantis xerampelina). Western Soutpansberg. Photo Melissa Petford.|
|Bubbling Kassina (Kassina senegalensis). Western Soutpansberg. Photo Ryan van Huyssteen.|
With a new scorpion for our lists (Cheloctonus jonesii) the season so far has been exceptionally good. The Soutpansberg is a biodiversity hotspot for scorpions and we have seen and photographed 22 species. So far this summer we have seen some amazing scorpions and very interesting interactions. Including scorpions mating (Opistophthalmus glabrifrons, Uroplectes flavoviridis), Scorpions eating one another (two accounts of cannibalism Uroplectes chubbi and Hottentotta trilineatus) and an interesting predation record between Hadogenes troglodytes and Parabuthus transvaalicus.
|Cheloctonis jonesii Punda Maria, Kruger National Park. Photo Ryan van Huyssteen.|
|Hadogenes troglodytes feeding on Parabuthus transvaalicus. Pafuri region. Photo Ryan van Huyssteen.|
|Maiting Opistophthalmus glabrifrons, Pafuri Region. Photo Ryan van Huyssteen.|
|Uroplectes carinatus Sand River. Photo Ryan van Huyssteen.|
|Opistophthalmus boehmi near Waterpoort Northern Soputpansberg. Photo Ryan van Huyssteen.|
|Opistacanthus asper, Sand River Valley. Photo Ryan van Huyssteen.|
|Uroplectes chubbi feeding on Uroplectes chubbi. Pafuri region. Photo Melissa Petford.|
|Uroplectes olivaceus Punda Maria, Kruger National Park. Photo Melissa Petford.|
The rest of the season until April we will continue building up our list. We are looking to expand our sampling sites to the north and also do a few intensive excursions to the east. Currently the project is at a point where we are beginning to focus into details and we look forward to some specialised studies in the next few months. Watch this space!
If you would like to get involved with the Soutpansberg Centre for Biodiversity and Conservation get in touch we are always looking out for enthusiastic and passionate people to help us in the field on our project or perhaps you have a project idea of your own.
|Soutpansberg Centre for Biodiversity and Conservation Info Poster.|
|Common Buttonquail (Turnix sylvaticus) a starnge bird often encountered at night.|