|A rescued African Ground Pangolin (Smutsia temnickii) busy feeding on cocktail ants. Photo Melissa Petford.|
|Orange cliffs of Medike, the effect is created when the sun is low and lights up orange lichen growing on cliffs.|
Our year got off to an exciting start and the SCBC hosted two researchers, Melita Vamberger and Flora Ihlow, who were looking at Kinixys and Pelomedusa throughout the north eastern parts of the country. We assisted them in the Soutpansberg region and saw and learned a lot about Testudines: a very interesting and diverse group of reptile. This is the first time we have specifically gone into the field looking for tortoises and they are actually difficult animals to target, especially Kinixys which normally occur in low densities.
|Juvenile Hinged Tortoise (Kinixys spp.) from the northern Slopes of the Soutpansberg.|
|Adult Kinixys from the top of the Soutpansberg.|
|Adult Kinixys spekki from the Limpopo Valley.|
|Juvenile Kinixys speki from the Sand River.|
|Hatchling Kinixys spekki from the Sand River.|
|Marsh Terrapin (Pelomedusa subrufa) near the Limpopo River.|
|Helmeted Terrapin (Pelomedusa) from near Polokwane.|
|Serrated Hinged Terrapin (Pelusios sinuatus), Soutpansberg.|
|Leopard Tortoise (Stigmochelys pardalis) feeding on lion scat, Mapaungubwe National Park.|
Kruger National Park and Mapangubwe National Park
Kruger National Park was one of our destinations during the summer and we were lucky to visit after some heavy summer rains. Pans had formed in many areas that are normally dry and we were lucky to see some of the exciting herpetofauna that Kruger National Park exhibits. Besides the reptiles we also had some amazing bird and mammal sightings. The most exciting being an unusual Nyala which had retained female colouration but grown horns. This is apparently caused by some kind of hormonal imbalance – a very unusual animal.
|Aberrent Nyala Bull (Tragelaphus angasii), Punda Maria, Kruger National Park.|
|A difficult reptile to see due to it's retiring nature Rough-scaled Plated Lizard (Broadleysaurus major), Punda Maria, KNP.|
|Soutpansberg Purple-Glossed Snake (Amblyodipsas microphthalma nigra) the Soutpansberg's and only endemic snake. Punda Maria, KNP.|
We also did a few trips to Mapangubwe National Park throughout this period and one weekend in particular was exceptional for birding, we recorded 167 species in a three days visit. Some highlights of the trip were seeing thousands of Muller’s Platanna (Xenopus muelleri) congregating at the edge of the Manoutswa pan, a Martial Eagle Eating a Rock Monitor, a new reptile for our list: Boulenger's Garter Snake (Elapsoidea boulengeri) and finally a rare bird, the Slaty Egret which we spotted in a small pan. Thanks to Richard Petifor for making it such a successful trip.
|Martial Eagle (Polemaetus bellicosus) consuming a Rock Monitor (Varanus albigularis).|
|Thousands of juvenile Muller’s
Platanna (Xenopus muelleri) gathering along edge of Manoutswa Pan, |
|Slaty Egret (Egretta vinaceigula) at Mapungubwe National Park.|
|Nile Monitor (Varanus niloticus) basking at Mapungubwe National Park.|
|Woodland Kingfisher (Halcyon senegalensis) preying on Southern Foam Nest Frog (Chiromantis xerampelina).|
Another mentionable highlight was an outing was to see the Platysaurus species of an area just south of Blouberg. We found three species living in very close proximity to one another, this is quite a special situation as there can’t be too many places in Southern Africa where one can see that many Platysaurus in easy walking distance.
|Dwarf Flat Lizard (Platysaurus guttatus) this species is incredibly shy and difficult to approach. Blouberg Region.|
|Waterberg Flat Lizard (Platysaurus minor), Blouberg Region.|
|Orange-throated Flat Lizard (Platysaurus monotropis), Blouberg Region.|
Other Platysaurus we have seen this season were Soutpansberg Flat Lizard (Platysaurus relictus), Blouberg Flat Lizard (Platysaurus parvus), Wilhelm's Flat Lizard (Platysaurus wilhelmi), Zimbabwe Flat Lizard (Platysaurus rhodesianus) and Sekhukhune Flat Lizard (Platysaurus orientalis).
|Wilhelm's Flat Lizard (Platysaurus wilhelmi).|
|Blouberg Flat Lizard (Platysaurus parvus), Blouberg Nature Reserve.|
|Soutpansberg Flat Lizard (Platysaurus relictus), Soutpansberg.|
|Sekhukhune Flat Lizard (Platysaurus orientalis) Blyde River Canyon.|
|Zimbabwe Flat Lizard (Platysaurus rhodesianus)|
During this period we undertook two notable surveys in new areas of the Soutpansberg. Our first survey was at the farms Leek and Surprise, located roughly south-east of Medike. We recorded 31 reptile species from the property, the most significant of these were five endemic Soutpansberg reptiles: Soutpansberg Worm Lizard (Chirindia langi occidentalis), Soutpansberg Flat Lizard (Platysaurus relictus), Soutpansberg Rock Lizard (Vhembelacerta rupicola), Cryptic Dwarf Gecko (Lygodactylus incognitus) and Soutpansberg Dwarf Gecko (Lygodactylus soutpansbergensis). The abundance of L. incognitus, L. soutpansbergenis, P. relictus and V. rupicola indicates that the property is an important location for the conservation of these species.
|Spotted Sandveld Lizard (Nucras intertexta)|
|Soutpansberg Dwarf Gecko (Lygodactylus soutpansbergensis)|
|Flat Dragon Lizard (Smaug depressus), an iconic species of the Soutpansberg.|
|Soutpansberg Worm Lizard (Chirindia langi occidentalis), an important high altitude record.|
|Bibron's Blind Snake (Afrotyphlops bibronii) locally common invertebrate eater.|
In addition to the endemics we also found a new locality of Spotted Rock Snake (Lamprophis guttatus) and a new species for our records: Broadley’s Flat Gecko (Afroedura broadleyi).
|Spotted Rock Snake (Lamprophis guttatus), a difficult to see crack dweller.|
|Broadley's Flat Gecko (Afroedura broadleyi) the first specimen for our lists.|
|Svenson's Dwarf Gecko (Lygodactylus stevensoni) hiding in plain site on a tree.|
|Black-lined Plated Lizard (Gerrhosaurus intermedius) a lizard not often encountered.|
|Eastern form of Pienaar's Flat Gecko (Afroedura pienaari)|
|Speckled Gecko (Pachydactylus punctatus).|
This period also produced many general biodiversity highlights. The most interesting were seeing a live African Hedgehog (Atelerix frontalis) in the Soutpansberg for the first time. Saving an African Ground Pangolin (Smutsia temminckii) from people trying to smuggle it into illicit trade (animal was rehabiltated and is now part of a African Pangolin Working Group programme which will reintroduce Pangolins into Northern KZN where they have become expatriated). Witnissing a Rock monitor (Varanus albigularis) predating on a hatchling Hinged Tortoise (Kinixys spekii). Observing a large Whalberg’s Velvet Gecko (Homopholis wahlbergii) consuming a Tropical House Gecko (Hemidactylus mabouia). Capturing a White-backed Night Heron (Gorsachius leuconotus) on camera trap and finding a Slaty Egret (Egretta vinaceigula) at Mapangubwe.
|African Ground Pangolin (Smutsia temminckii) photo Melissa Petford.|
|White-backed Night Heron (Gorsachius leuconotus)|
|Whalberg's Velvet Gecko (Homopholis wahlbergii) and Tropical House Gecko (Hemidactylus mabouia)|
|Watched this Rock Monitor (Varanus albigularis) digging out a Hinged Tortoise (Kinixys spekii).|
Summer 2019 has been exceptional and we have seen so much, encountered so many species, met some amazing people and accomplished so much over the years. The coming summer will see us continuing our surveys by targeting gaps in our survey effort, tying up loose ends and continuing our collaborations we have built over the years. Watch this space for our final blog post at the end of the year.
|African Hedgehog (Atelerix frontalis) photo Melissa Petford.|