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SARCA Newsletter No.1

Fri, 24 Jun 2005

Dear Friends of SARCA

This is the first SARCA newsletter - more will follow, at least quarterly. (Please also check the website for feedback.) This newsletter is a plain email, but in future we plan to make it more attractive, with pics, etc.

Since the launch of SARCA on 10 May 2005, there has been a fair bit of activity, and some things have begun to take shape. SARCA depends on three major sources of information to create its database: (1) museums, (2) field surveys, and (3) volunteer submissions. I am happy to report that there has been good progress on all three fronts.

Firstly, the Transvaal Museum and Port Elizabeth Museum have given us permission to use their data in the SA-ISIS database for the gap analysis. (Many thanks to Marion Burger at the TM and Bill Branch at PEM for facilitating this.) The gap analysis is the process by which we will find out which areas have already been relatively well surveyed, and which are still high priorities for additional data collection. This analysis is a crucial step because it will enable us to focus our resources on those parts of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland where the herpetofauna is least known.

However, we realized that it was essential that we add another dataset to those of the TM and PEM to make the gap analysis meaningful. This is the extensive collection at the National Museum (Bloemfontein). With the assistance of Mike Bates, Curator of Herpetology, and the Director, Dr Rick Nuttall, permission to use NM data in both the gap analysis and the SARCA database was granted, and a digital copy of the data made available to us.

SARCA wishes to publically acknowledge the vital contributions that our natural history museums make to the documentation of biodiversity. Their work is largely unsung, unappreciated, and under-funded, but we at SARCA appreciate it very much!

The gap analysis is being carried out by Dr Barend Erasmus and Bryan Maritz at Wits University. They have digitized all the distribution maps in Bill Branch's 1998 field guide, and those maps of "expected distribution" now provide a basis for comparision with the actual hard data available. The difference between the two will tell us where the priorities for fieldwork lie.

The preliminary results of the gap analysis will be available by the end of August, and will be posted to the website ( so that everyone can see where we would most like them to go! Marius Burger, the SARCA Project Herpetologist, will then set about planning his first field season.

Of course, volunteers are also going to make a big and important contribution to SARCA. They have already begun to send in their photographic submissions, and very exciting it has been to receive them! During May, I received submissions from the following 13 volunteers:

  • Slabbert M. (very first submission)
  • Stander M.J. Becker R. (4)
  • McCleland W. (7 - second most)
  • Phelps T. Webster K. (7 - second most)
  • Harebottle D. (3)
  • Peacock F. (8 - most)
  • Burger F.
  • Incledon P.
  • Deal J.
  • Ewart-Smith J.
  • De Beer C.

A very big THANK YOU! to all of you for getting in early and helping SARCA to get started. Keep those photos coming!

Our IT boffin, René Navarro, has designed and created the database, with the assistance of Reuben, Nick and Jesse at SANBI, and got all of your pictures online in the SARCA "virtual museum". This is now up and running - please go to the website and have a look! The panel of experts who will be identifying your pictures has been appointed, and their identifications and comments will shortly begin to appear with your records in the virtual museum (VM). Make sure you go and find out what animal it was that you photographed!

This week I presented a poster on SARCA at the Fifth World Congress of Herpetology, held in Stellenbosch. Several delegates from various parts of the world took an interest in what we are setting out to do with SARCA.

So, in short, SARCA is off to a flying start. I go into hospital on Monday to have new knees fitted to replace my half-century-old ones that have worn out. Unfortunately, I will be out of action until August, so please be patient if I don't respond to your communications promptly. With many thanks for the support given by all of you to SARCA

James Harrison
SARCA Project Coordinator


South African National Biodiversity Institute Herpetological Association of Africa Avian Demography Unit

"SARCA is a joint project of the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI), the Herpetological Association of Africa (HAA), and the Avian Demography Unit (ADU), Department of Statistical Sciences, University of Cape Town."



[ Document posted on 27 Jun 2005 ]

    April 16, 2024, 10:53 pm