Southern African Reptiles

     Reptiles & SARCA
        About SARCA
        Newsletters & Media
        Virtual Museum
        Mailling List
     Amphibians & SAFAP
UCT logo
Herpetological Association of Africa

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License
© 2024 ADU - UCT
SARCA logo

SARCA Field Survey No. 4 - trip report

March 2006     

Date: Date: 14 - 22 December 2005
Locality: Locality: NE of Groblershoop, Northern Cape, on farms Blackridge, Koedoesnek and Vaalkop.

Trap array on a hillside.
  trap array
Trap array under a copse of acacias, alongside a drainage line.

SARCA Team 4:
Marius Burger: SARCA Project Herpetologist.
Donovan du Toit and Robert James: two head-bangers who had just matriculated, and set out on a SARCA expedition to celebrate the conclusion of their school years. Both have been snake enthusiasts for several years, and they work part-time at the Durban Snake Park.

  Team 4 SARCA Team 4: Robert and Donovan.

Marius's comments:

Well I suppose not all trips can be highly successful, and SARCA 4 proved to be a case in point. We managed to record only 24 reptile species during the 10-day surveying effort (see checklist below). This was quite a bit lower than the previous three trips which each produced more than 30 species. Nevertheless, 24 species out of an expected 40 for the cluster of grid cells that we surveyed is still a 60% success rate and not bad, especially as absolutely nothing was previously known from these cells.

Volunteers Donovan and Robert had a wish-list: they so wanted to find a Black Spitting Cobra, and a Cape Cobra, and a Horned Adder, Tiger Snake, Coral Snake - any snake in fact! In the end we got only eight snakes of four different species. Yep, they got their Cape Cobra, and three Kalahari Sand Snakes in the funnel traps, a dead-on-road Brown House Snake, and we missed a Black Spitter that was killed at Boegoeberg just a few days before we visited that locality. But the most special of all were two specimens of thread snake (Leptotyphlops sp.) that fell into our pitfall traps. They still have to be identified, but for now we know that this is the first record of a thread snake species from this region. In fact, this is the first time that any member of this snake family (Leptotyphlopidae) has been recorded within 250 km of this locality! The maps in the snake field guides will have to be redrawn…

Checking the pitfall and funnel traps each morning is always done with great anticipation - akin to opening Christmas presents as a child. Quite often the traps contain the common, not-so-exciting species - handkerchiefs from grandma, or a dictionary from some aunt. But once in a while you get a bright red fire engine! I found mine in a pitfall trap: it was a beautiful Spotted Sandveld Lizard (Nucras intertexta). When I say beautiful, I mean stunning - in fact the most gorgeously handsome lizard that I've ever captured in a pitfall trap. And what's more, this species was also about 200 km beyond its known distribution range. Keep on redrawing those maps…

thread snake Unidentified thread snake.   lizard Spotted Sandveld Lizard Nucras intertexta

sand snake Kalahari Sand Snake Psammophis trinisalis.   trap array A Y-shaped trap array takes shape.

Donovan's comments:

SARCA 4 was great fun for me. I already knew a bit about reptiles, but still learnt a hell of a lot. Unfortunately it was very dry and not many retiles were caught. My best moments were catching the Rock Monitor, finding the hatchling Bushveld Lizard, the Spotted Sandveld Lizard and, best of all, the food and guys we stayed with at Vaalkop. So thanks to Marius and SARCA for the opportunity!

the chase
Donovan does the Kalahari quick-step to catch a wily Rock Monitor Varanus albigularis.
  Donovan & monitor Who's checking whom?

chow down Clearly there was nothing wrong with the chow...

Robert's comments:

A SARCA survey is an excellent experience that I would highly recommend to anyone with an interest in reptiles. During the trip I learnt a lot of useful information, ranging from building traps to how to preserve specimens. Highlights were knowledge gained, catching a Cape Cobra, working with so many scorpions (especially Parabuthus spp.), and the hospitality of our hosts at Vaalkop. The downside was a lack of rain which resulted in rather few reptiles. Better luck next time, I hope.

  digging Digging in the traps can be hard work in the Kalahari heat.   cobra Robert handles a mean-looking Cape Cobra Naja nivea with care.

Species recorded during SARCA 4:

Agama aculeata Common Ground Agama
Agama anchietae Anchieta's Agama
Agama atra Southern Rock Agama
Chamaeleo dilepis Flap-necked Chameleon
Cordylus polyzonus Karoo Girdled Lizard
Heliobulus lugubris Bushveld Lizard
Pedioplanis lineoocellatus subsp. Spotted Sand Lizard
Nucras intertexta Spotted Sandveld Lizard
Trachylepis occidentalis Western Three-striped Skink
Trachylepis sparsa Karasburg Tree Skink
Trachylepis spilogaster Kalahari Tree Skink
Trachylepis sulcata Western Rock Skink
Trachylepis v. variegate Variegated Skink
Pachydactylus bibronii Bibron's Thick-toed Gecko
Pachydactylus capensis Cape Thick-toed Gecko
Pachydactylus mariquensis latirostris Marico Thick-toed Gecko
Pachydactylus purcelli Purcell's Thick-toed Gecko
Ptenopus g. garrulus Common Barking Gecko
Varanus albigularis Rock Monitor
Varanus niloticus Nile Monitor
Leptotyphlops sp. thread snake (species identification pending)
Lamprophis capensis Brown House Snake
Psammophis trinisalis Kalahari Sand Snake
Naja nivea Cape Cobra


SARCA 4 was based on the farm Vaalkop, in a luxurious hunter's lapa, with the brothers Jaco and Joachim van der Walt feeding us at every opportunity and making our stay memorable. Many thanks boys! We are thankful to the farmers who permitted us to survey their properties: Jannie Jacobs (Blackridge), Hanlie and Philip van Staden (Koedoesnek) and Kobie van der Walt (Vaalkop).

  Oom Kallie Joachim van der Walt does his Oom Kallie impersonation.   girls and mouse Farmers' daughters get to know a Pouched Mouse (Wangsakmuis) Saccostomus campestris that was caught in a trap. This species is amazingly docile and safe to handle.

The bakkie performed admirably, clocking 1000s of kilometres on tar and off-road. We gratefully acknowledge the support and sponsorship of 4x4 Eco Challenge for biodiversity research projects such as SARCA. (See for details of their other projects.)

  bakkie The 4X4 Eco Challenge bakkie in action.

Thanks to Northern Cape Nature Conservation Service for providing a permit
(0861/05 1/10/2/730) to collect reptiles during SARCA surveys.

Photos by Marius Burger

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 27 March 2006 ]

    May 30, 2024, 2:32 am