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SARCA Field Survey No. 7 - trip report

August 2006     

Date: Date: 20 - 29 January 2006
Locality: Locality: Northern Cape province, south and south-east of Britstown, on farms De Put, Lemoenfontein, Daggafontein, Brewershoek and Leebskopdam.

trap array Trap array at the foot of a hill.   trap array Trap array in an Opuntia plantation.

traps in rocks Going to clear a trap array in a rocky area.   trap clearing Clearing the traps in an array in grassland.

funnel trap A well-concealed and shaded funnel trap.   clearing traps Clearing the traps.

SARCA Team 7:

Marius Burger: SARCA Project Herpetologist.
Morné "Lang Man" Carstens: Manager of Strandfontein Sewerage Works as a bird sanctuary for Nature Conservation Corporation.
Kareemah Jacobs: Environmental Consultant with Nature Conservation Corporation.
Adelé Pretorius: Reserve Manager of Blaauwberg Conservation Area for the City of Cape Town.

  Team 7 SARCA Team 7: Kareemah, Morné and Adelé - a wet lot. (Look at all that water in the background!)   Team 7 Team 7 in their new 3Xdonkey vehicle.

Marius's comments:

And then the heavens opened! The first six SARCA trips were dry - very dry - it rained only 3 mm in total during 60 days, but SARCA 7 was a real wet one. Why is it that we're never quite satisfied with the weather? On some of the previous trips I bemoaned the lack of rain, and now I wished for less. The frogs were out in full force, of course, with Southern Pygmy Toads and Bushveld Rain Frogs melting the hearts of our three volunteers. And speaking of volunteers, the SARCA 7 interns were all in the nature-conservation business, but the birdy kind - ja, blerrie twitchers the lot of them. It took no small effort to prise their eyes away from telephone lines and down to rocky ridges where Karoo Girdled Lizards sat in full view on the few sunny days, if only someone cared to look. They eventually got the idea, and a world of dragons unfolded…

Other than scores of frogs, we managed to accrue a total of 29 reptile species, comprising nine snake, 17 lizard and three chelonian (tortoise & terrapin) species - see checklist below. Not including the verbal records obtained through interviews with farmers, we recorded 71% of the expected richness of grid cell 3023DC (priority ranking = 31), 43% of cell 3023CC (rank = 54), and 36% of cell 3023CD (rank = 78). This is OK going, but sunnier weather would probably have increased the tally.

Personal highlights and interesting records:

  • Watching a scramble of volunteers trying to catch a large Rock Monitor!
  • A very dead and generally amorphous snake specimen that we peeled off the tar road turned out to be Sundevall's Garter Snake, a significant southern distribution range extension for this species.
  • It is noteworthy that two species of sandveld lizard occur here, and possibly a third, because Kareemah described what might be a Western Sandveld Lizard. A mystery to solve on some sunny day.
  • Golden-spotted Thick-toed Gecko was an unexpected find.
  • A juvenile dwarf gecko, possibly Lygodactylus capensis, was observed on the window of the liquor store in Britstown. Dwarf geckos do not occur naturally in this region, and it is likely that this species is an inadvertent introduction. In recent years Cape Dwarf Geckos have established several populations outside of their natural range. Maybe Britstown will be next...
  • Meeting up with Mannetjies and his pride-and-joy team of donkeys, plodding along some forgotten farm road. Mannetjies knows his herps - he told me lots that I didn't know. I feel like a beginner.

chase! That old monitor-catching quickstep again...  

gecko Golden-spotted Thick-toed Gecko Pachydactylus oculatus.   Mannetjies Mannetjies with his pride-and-joys.

Lang Man Morné's comments:

A really great experience! Saw the Karoo in a very different, wet way. SARCA is a definite must for a person with a passion for reptiles and the outdoors.

Morné Morné with an equally handsome and attenuated mantis.   Morné Morné digs in.

Adelé's comments:

An amazing trip! Saw quite a few lifers (some of which were reptiles). Coral snakes and sandveld lizards were the highlights. Pity about so much rain in the Karoo.

Adelé Adelé prepares for the Lady Drift-fence Beauty Pageant.  

  hoppers Adelé contemplates padkos of the hopping variety.   coral snake Cape Coral Snake Aspidelaps l. lubricus.

Kareemah's comments:

The wettest SARCA trip by far! But found geckos, lizards, tortoises and two coral snakes. It was great fun, and thanks to SARCA and Marius for the great learning experience.

water Beach babes in the Karoo!!  

  monitor Rock Monitor Varanus albigularis.   tortoise Southern Africa's largest species of tortoise, the Leopard Tortoise Geochelone pardalis. (Don't worry, this specimen was NOT collected, because there was no need to.)

roadkill A real threat to tortoises: road mortality. This less fortunate Leopard Tortoise was carrying eggs. The SARCA teams regularly encounter sad spectacles such as this. Do drivers do it deliberately??  

Species recorded during SARCA 7:


Agama a. aculeata - Common Ground Agama
Agama atra - Southern Rock Agama
Cordylus polyzonus - Karoo Girdled Lizard
Lygodactylus sp. (capensis?) - (Cape) Dwarf Gecko
Nucras intertexta - Spotted Sandveld Lizard
Nucras livida - Karoo Sandveld Lizard
Pachydactylus bibronii - Bibron's Thick-toed Gecko
Pachydactylus capensis - Cape Thick-toed Gecko
Pachydactylus oculatus - Golden Spotted Thick-toed Gecko
Pachydactylus purcelli - Purcell's Thick-toed Gecko
Pedioplanis lineoocellata subsp. - Spotted Sand Lizard
Pedioplanis namaquensis - Namaqua Sand Lizard
Trachylepis capensis - Cape Skink
Trachylepis occidentalis - Western Three-striped Skink
Trachylepis s. sulcata - Western Rock Skink
Trachylepis variegata - Variegated Skink
Varanus albigularis - Rock Monitor


Aspidelaps l. lubricus - Cape Coral Snake
Bitis arietans - Puff Adder*
Elapsoidea sundevallii media - Sundevall's Garter Snake
Lamprophis capensis - Brown House Snake
Naja nivea - Cape Cobra*
Prosymna sundevallii - Sundevall's Shovel-snout
Psammophis notostictus - Karoo Sand Snake
Pseudaspis cana - Mole Snake*
Rhinotyphlops lalandei - Delalande's Beaked Blind Snake


Geochelone pardalis - Leopard Tortoise
Pelomedusa subrufa - Marsh Terrapin
Psammobates tentorius subsp. - Tent Tortoise
* = species not encountered during the survey, but recorded by means of interviews with farmers.

froglove When it rains in the Karoo, frogs need to get down to business without delay! These are Common Cacos Cacosternum boettgeri.   rain frog The Bushveld Rain Frog Breviceps adspersus is a terrestrial frog which lays its eggs in an underground nest, not in water.


The Toyota bakkie sponsored by the 4x4 Eco Challenge handled the wet conditions gracefully. In fact, it seemed grateful for the opportunity to exchange Kalahari sands and fynbos mountains for mud, mud, glorious mud. Once again, SARCA would like to thank 4x4 Eco Challenge for their valued support of this project. Visit to learn more about their other conservation projects.

bakkie The mud-bespattered 4X4 Eco Challenge bakkie.  

Blackie Swart of Prieska, acting as my personal tourist consultant for this region, put me into contact with the relevant farmers. Our base was a big old hunter's house on the farm De Put, where we set up our field lab in the lapa. Hospitality was first class, with Gerhand and Lynette Sieberhagen wining and dining us, delivering huge jugs of fresh farm milk in the mornings, and generally treating us like special guests of honour. We loved it! And then, as if this were Friends-of-SARCA week, the Van der Merwe family of Lemoenfontein welcomed us onto their farm. In fact, they joined in on the search with mom, dad and two eager sons making sure that not a stone remained unturned. Thank you all. And thanks also to Lykes and Baie-Praat who took us on a long night-drive in search of the elusive Aardvark, which eluded us, of course. We are grateful to Hendrik Rust (Daggafontein & Brewershoek) and Casper Badenhorst (Leebskopdam) for allowing us to do some active searching on their properties.

family The Van der Merwe family gets to know the reptiles on their farm.  

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

Compiled by Marius Burger & James Harrison
SARCA Project Herpetologist & 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 29 June 2006 ]

    December 1, 2023, 2:33 pm