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SARCA Field Survey No. 3 - trip report

February 2006

Date: Date: 4 - 13 December 2005
Locality: Locality: Northern Cape Province, Boegoeberg district, on farms Onderseekoebaard, Boseekoebaard, Rooidam and Panheuwel.

landscape Vêr in die ou Kalahari....wragtig!!   bakkie and traps 4X4 Eco Challenge bakkie and trap array under an acacia, and large Sociable Weaver nest.

SARCA team 3:
Marius Burger: SARCA Project Herpetologist.
Henning Janse van Vuuren: lawyer from Pretoria
Candice Lyons: Zoology student at UCT
Sean Ward: salesperson at Cape Union Mart

  Team 3 SARCA Team 3: Henning, Candice, Sean, and Rock Monitor.

Marius's comments:

SARCA 3 happened in the Boegoeberg region, west of Groblershoop. We were a jolly team of reptile seekers, but the subjects of our explorations proved to be somewhat more evasive than those of the previous two surveys. Nevertheless, in the end we managed to accrue a total of 31 species, comprising 20 lizard, 9 snake and 2 tortoise species. Two of these represented substantial (>250 km) distribution range extensions, viz., Variegated Bush Snake Philothamnus semivariegatus and Southern Stiletto Snake Atractaspis bibronii.

Other than reptiles, the traps also capture a variety of rodents, shrews, scorpions, spiders, beetles, etc. These are of added interest when we check traps in the morning, and they sure keep the enthusiasm going if reptiles are few. However, I never expected to catch a mongoose in a funnel trap! It happened towards the end of the survey, as I walked up to the trap array shouting "Pleeeze let there be something interesting in the traps today!". Well, I should have been a bit more specific. A beautiful Slender Mongoose somehow managed to crawl into a funnel trap, presumably in pursuit of its reptilian contents. It was now rather disgruntled about not being able to leave the 'restaurant'. We can only wonder as to what the reptile/s might have been - hopefully not a rare speciesÖ

sun spider Henning and uninvited guest - a sun spider (solifugid).   mongoose Candice and uninvited dinner guest - a Slender Mongoose.

And while on the topic of unusual visitors to the traps, on another morning I was annoyed to see several of the funnel traps lying scattered all over the place. The culprit was soon discovered. Dozing under a stump of a Camel Thorn tree was a guilty-looking, very fat, Rock Monitor Varanus albigularis.

Marius Marius the Clown, tries on a live ear-ring to entertain the kids.   Marius Marius the Confused, ponders the ID of a lizard.
Marius Marius the Responsible, logs coordinates on a night drive.   Marius Marius in Love, with a Variegated Bush Snake.

Henning's comments:

Work hard, play hard: all part of the SARCA experience. On my arrival I met my new team-mates, and on my departure I said goodbye to old friends. Marius Burger's passion for his work and life made this an unforgettable journey. Thank you SARCA.

Extract from a short article written by Henning:

Hier by Woensdag weet ek nie meer of dit Dinsdag of Dingaansdag is nie. Tyd en ruimte is irrelevant, al wat saak maak is genoeg water. Dag een grou ons gate vir die vale en stel die lokvalle. Van dag twee af is daar die opwinding van: Wat het ons gevang? In die middae `n lekker swem en dan, gewapen met `n koevoet en slangstok terug veld toe vir aktiewe soektogte tussen daai warm klippe. In die aand patrollie ons op die teerpad waar daai koue lywe vir oulaas wil kom bak. Sonder grappies, toe ek my oŽ uitvee is my tent weer afgeslaan, my kar gepak en ek weer weg! Dankie SARCA, Marius, Sean en Candice vir 'n ongelooflike ondervinding!

  active search
Active search for reptiles on a rocky koppie.

Candice's comments:

Survey 3 was great fun and an awesome experience. There was plenty of hard work - especially on the first day - but it was nevertheless satisfying to have put out all the traps. I got my first scorpion sting - not deadly - but still hellishly sore! Despite the circumstances, that was one of the highlights. Something I will never forget is sitting dead still for a long time next to a tiny little hole in the Kalahari sand, waiting for a Barking Gecko to emerge. Finally, on the last night, one did stick out his fat little head and peered unblinkingly at my torchlight. EXCEPTIONAL!

Sean's comments:

SARCA 3 was an awesome experience! It was full of funny moments as well as some of the hardest work you will ever do! The group of people that I spent time with over those days will always be remembered. The singing and joking between us was amazing and I think that SARCA 3 will remain a top group for Marius. The highlights of the trip were definitely the night drives and hearing/seeing Barking Geckos!

  barking gecko Common Barking Gecko Ptenopus garrulus.   Putsonderwater The legend lives on...


Transport to conduct the survey was once again provided by the 4x4 Eco Challenge ( It is vital for the SARCA surveys to have the use of a reliable and comfortable 4x4 that can carry four persons and a big load of traps over tough terrain. The brand new Toyota Hilux Raider certainly proved itself up to the task!

  bakkie The 4X4 Eco Challenge bakkie handled some tough terrain.

The SARCA base-camp was a rather fine place, located at Transboegoe Eco Resort (0835007180) on the banks of the Boegoeberg Dam. Daily dips in the Orange River helped to revive wilted reptile hunters during the scorching midday. Lourens en Elzahn Fourie made sure that camping was as comfy as living at home. In fact, the meals that Elzahn provided three times a day made the stay even better than home. They even lent us their children to liven up our day!

girl and snake Magic moments of first contact....   girl & lizard

aardwolf Contact that one could do without. A dead Aardwolf, "displayed" for all to see. The misconception persists that these termite-eaters kill livestock.

We are grateful to the farmers who permitted surveying the reptile fauna of their properties: Lourens Fourie (Onderseekoebaard), David Foerie (Boseekoebaard), Japie Botes (Rooidam) and Eddie Nowers (Panheuwel). Northern Cape Nature Conservation Service is thanked for providing a permit (0861/05 1/10/2/730) to collect reptiles during SARCA surveys.

Photos by Marius Burger and Candice Lyons

Compiled by James Harrison & Marius Burger
SARCA Project Coordinator & Project Herpetologist


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 8 Feb 2006 ]

    May 30, 2024, 1:12 am