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SARCA Newsletter No. 8

October 2007

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New subscribers, please visit for more information about SARCA. Previous newsletters are posted on the "Newsletters and Media" page.

Dear SARCA Supporters,


Apart from a core team of six people at the ADU that is responsible for the everyday running of SARCA, the project also relies heavily on the expertise of a number of herpetologists from both in and out of South Africa. Their participation will make possible, by the project's end, the production of an updated Atlas and Red Data Book of the reptiles of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland. In this and following newsletters, we will be including "potted biographies" of these experts, recognizing the excellent work they are doing towards the project. You may recognize some of their names from the Panel of Experts of the Virtual Museum. I asked them to send photos of themselves, preferably also illustrating a reptile - not quite sure what was in Mike's mind when he sent the picture below...


Mike Bates (right) says: I am a herpetologist at the National Museum in Bloemfontein, where I have worked since 1983. I am particularly interested in systematics and biogeography, and am currently studying Crag Lizards (Pseudocordylus) and Flat Geckos (Afroedura). My interest in herps grew strong as a result of collecting and keeping snakes as a teenager.


Johan Marais says: I have been a keen herper since my school days and my interests are largely the reptiles of Southern Africa as well as photography. Right now most of my energy is spent on fossorial reptiles and geckos. I am the author of "A complete guide to the snakes of Southern Africa."



Bryan Maritz says: I am a PhD student at the University of the Witwatersrand, working under the supervision of Prof. Graham Alexander. I have always had an interest in natural history, which has developed into chronic herp fever. My honours and masters research focussed on herpetofaunal trapping techniques and sampling fossorial herpetofauna respectively. My current research focuses on the ecology and conservation biology of the Namaqua Dwarf Adder (Bitis schneideri). I also enjoy herp photography. When I grow up I want to be just like Johan Marais...


Please note the old email address for Virtual Museum records is no longer active. Submissions should be sent to

It seems that October is likely to be a bumper month for Virtual Museum submissions. In the whole of September, we only processed 45 submissions, while in the first 24 days of October (at the time of this newsletter), we processed 213 records. Congratulations to all of those who have sent in photos - please keep it up!

Below the summary the contributions that made up the third thousand records (2001 to 3000) in the VM, interspersed with ten of James' personal favourites.

Snouted Night Adder Causus defilippii by G. Tomsett (SARCA 2033) Namaqua Tent Tortoise Psammobates tentorius trimeni by R. Simmons (SARCA 2058)

Adams M. (13); Alberts A.J. (5); Altwegg L. & Altwegg P. (2); Anderson M.D. (3); Anderson T.A.; Andri C.; Armstrong A.J. & Wimberger K. (2); Armstrong Q. (4); Badenhorst W.J. (37); Bardo R.; Birch W. (18); Bowker M.B. (8); Braat P. (31); Calitz M. (2); Claassen C.; Cleminson C.M.; Coetzer A. (21); Colahan B.D. (5); Cooke D. & Cooke I; de Kock M. (10); Deacon A.R. (42);Deuchar A. (6); Diedericks G. (12); Dobson R.; Dorse C. & van Rooyen S. (31); Douglas M. (96); du Plessis D. (3); Durrheim G. (15)

Common Ground Agama Agama aculeata aculeata by M.D. Anderson(SARCA 2460) Rinkhals Hemachatus haemachatus by B. Maritz (SARCA 2482)

Dyer B.; Erasmus S.J.; Erni B. & Altwegg R. (3); Evans S.W. (8); Fisher J.T.; Fleming C. (3); Geyser R.F. (16); Giliomee J.; Grant C.; Haacke K.O.; Haacke W.D. (9); Haas F. (5); Hardaker T. & Hardaker M. (10); Harvey J. (12); Havengaar D.; Helme N.A.; Henderson L. (5); Henrici I.; Heymans J.A. (11); Hofmeyr W.; Honiball D. & Honiball L. (12); Hopkins K., Measey J. & Tolley K.A. (2); Huisamen J. (2); Janse van Rensburg J.P. (6); Jeggle R. (3); Jones A. (3); Kirby J. (2); Klein H.; Kok A. (14); Kusters M.; Labuschagne L. (3); le Roux B.A. (2); le Roux E.R. (26); le Roux E.R. & Wolfaardt L.; le Roux E.R., Jobb E & de Kock M.; le Roux B.A.; Lotter J.S.S. (2); Louw D.; Maartens S.; Maguire D. (27)

Emerald Dwarf Chameleon Bradypodion sp. by A. Kok; a yet-to-be-described species! (SARCA 2514) Common Flap-neck Chameleon Chamaeleo dilepis by S. Steiner (SARCA 2837)

Marais A. (5); Marais R. (19); Maritz B. (28); McGonagle A.; Mecenero S. (3); Mlatsheni T.; Natural Scientific Services CC. (14); Nel M. (5); Niehaus RW.; Nurcombe-Thorne H.J.; Oschadleus H.D. (16); Palmer P.A. (2); Parker L. & Witberg M.; Peacock F. (4); Peacock F. & Geyser R.F.; Pfeifer H. (9); Phelps T., Els J. & Witberg M.; Potgieter M. (4); Pretorius A. (5); Rebelo A. (61); Richter W.; Rose B. (3); SA Reptiles; Scammell I. (31); Schmidt W.R. (10); Shaikh Z. (9); Simmons R. (5); Smit R.; Steiner S. (8); Stilwell D.; Swanepoel D. (7); Tanner A. (2)

Aurora House Snake Lamprophis aurora by M. Witberg & R. Van Zyl (SARCA 2893) Mozambique Spitting Cobra Naja mossambica by SA Reptiles - nice to see the ladies getting involved, even with the scary reptiles! (SARCA 2934)

Tomsett G. (19); van der Westhuizen C.; van Kleunen M., Pasqualetto V., Altwegg R., Altwegg B.& Altwegg N.; van Wyk A.C. (2); van Wyk S.S. & van Wyk A.C.; Venter D. (3); Venter J.; Vlok M.; Vos P. (2); Webster K. (5); Willis C.K. (12); Wilson B.Y. (24); Witberg M. (15); Witberg M. & Albertyn R. (11); Witberg M. & Bezuidenhoudt R.; Witberg M. & Botha M. (2); Witberg M. & Cleaver G.; Witberg M. & Lourens F. (3); Witberg M. & Nel K. (2); Witberg M. & Neumann J.; Witberg M. & Olivier L.; Witberg M. & Parker L. (17); Witberg M. & Smit K.,;Witberg M. & Steenkamp C.; Witberg M. & van der Westhuyzen H.; Witberg M. & Van Zyl R. (20); Witberg M. & Wilson D.; Witberg M. & Witberg G. (6); Witberg M., Joubert P. & Niewenhuizen D.; Witberg M., Lourens F. & Albertyn R.; Wolfaardt L. (3).

Southern Tree Agama Acanthocercus atricollis by S.W. Evans (SARCA 2963) Dusky Spade-snouted Worm Lizard Monopeltis infuscata by C. Andri; a rare record of an amphisbaenian! (SARCA 2979)

Virtual Museum photo tips

If you can get your reptile to stay still long enough, up to three photos that show the following for each animal will be hugely helpful for making identifications:

Full body shot
  • Zoomed in photos showing the entire body - preferably the upper-side and under-side of the body.
  • If possible, include something for scale, e.g. a hand, or a lens cap.
  • For chameleons, the full body shot should show the spines on the back, the entire tail (length relative to the body), and the scales on the flanks.
  • A close-up of the head can be a really useful identification aid.
  • For snakes, a shot of the side of the head is useful.
  • For chameleons, the head shot should show the fringe on the chin.
  • For geckos, close-ups of the tail and toes are helpful.
  • For tortoises, view of top and bottom of animal, as well as side views and head shots
    A description of habitat in the [notes] field can sometimes be useful (e.g. forest, grassland, alien vegetation, fynbos).

    SARCA's final field season is almost upon us. If you are feeling brave / foolish / in need of a little excitement and would like to join Marius on a trip, please send your name, contact details and available times (between November 2007 and April 2008) to Linda at Once we have the results of a Gap Analysis that is currently in progress, we will be able to decide on the sites that will be visited this season. Once this information is available, we will begin contacting the names on Linda's list. Please note that, much as we would like to, it is unlikely that we will have enough vehicle space to accommodate everyone who would like to participate.



    "Daar's nog 'n skoenlapper; waar's die GeePeeEss?"
    "Kyk hierdie mooi blom! Is hy ge-introduced?"
    "Hier's 'n SLANG!!"

    The air buzzed with excitement, as 60 Grade 9 learners from Rusthof High School explored the wonders of Harmony Flats Nature Reserve on 6 September during Arbor Week. Harmony is a tiny green gem hidden on the Cape Flats in Strand. The 9-ha plot is surrounded by extremely poor communities and rampant urban sprawl. It supports a unique mixture of threatened vegetation, of which there is less than 7% left in the world. The combination of Renosterveld and Lowland Fynbos is home to an astonishing variety of plants, including the Critically Endangered Ixia versicolor.

    In September, Marienne and Silvia Mecenero (co-ordinator of SABCA, the Southern African Butterfly Conservation Assessment) met up at the reserve with a team from Cape Flats Nature, a project which aims to encourage sound sustainable management practices for urban conservation areas so as to benefit surrounding communities, particularly where incomes are low and living conditions poor. The morning's activities began with talks by Rupert Koopman (CREW, Custodians of Rare and Endangered Wildflowers Project), Silvia and Marienne about the fascinating fauna and flora of the area and on the importance of conserving the reserve. Then it was off to the field, and the hunt for flowers, butterflies and reptiles was on.

    The first reptile find of the day was a Common Slug Eater (Tabakrolletjie). Then Steve, Silvia's husband, discovered a Common Padloper. This tortoise species once shared Harmony Flats with the Geometric Tortoise, but while the more hardy padlopers were able to survive the frequent man-made fires that plagued the reserve, the Geometrics were not. A Rhombic Skaapsteker, sheltering under a plank of wood, caused the most excitement. Two species of butterflies were identified, the common African Monarch and the Silver-bottom Brown.


    Cape Mountain Rain Frog, Breviceps montanus

    Amphibian populations are declining throughout the world for reasons that include climate change, disease, pollution, increased UV levels and invasive alien species. The Western Cape is especially rich in amphibian species, half of which are endemic, i.e. occur nowhere else in the world. In response to the potetial threats to these species associated with bringing in amphibians from other parts of the country or word, CapeNature no longer allows the import into the province of any amphibians for private captivity or general educational and display purposes. The few non-indigenous amphibians that are currently in captivity are "confined to quarters," and no trade with them is allowed.

    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 28 August 2007 ]

        April 25, 2024, 8:14 am