Next Gen Herpetologist

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Authors: William Branch, Ninda Baptista, Chad Keates, Shelley Edwards Abstract: Two rare and endemic psammophines (Serpentes: Psammophiinae) occur in Angola. The taxonomic status of Psammophylax rhombeatus ocellatus Bocage, 1873and Psammophis ansorgii Boulenger, 1905 have long remained problematic, with both having varied past and present taxonomic assignments, and whose distributions may therefore present zoogeographic anomalies. Little was known of their biology, habitat associations, or phylogenetic relationships. New material was collected during biodiversity surveys of the Humpata Plateau,… Read More

I am proud to announce that I am no longer a Masters of Science student (MSc), as I have recently upgraded to being a PhD candidate. What this basically means is that I forgo masters and go straight to doctorate level. The work that I have been doing, in completion of my MSc, will now be adjusted, modified and expanded upon, to create a PhD dissertation that I will hopefully submit the… Read More

On the 19th of October I was very fortunate to receive the inaugural D&J Ranchhod Bursary in honour of the late Mr Dale Ranchhod, a long-serving member of the Zoology & Entomology Department. I received the certificate from Mrs Jasu Ranchhod at a formal function held in the Department foyer. I was nominated for the award by members of the academic staff making the award an incredible honour. After the formal ceremony… Read More

I am honoured to announce that this year I received the Laura Starke Memorial Bursary Award for the second time. Unlike many bursaries that focus on academic merit, this bursary is special in the sense that it takes more than ones’ academic achievements into account when selecting a candidate. For this reason I am incredibly grateful to receive this award because it represents the acknowledgement of the sum of my efforts within… Read More

Two thousand and eighteen was an eventful year for me because not only have I made huge strides in my professional career, but I have also managed to make a sizable impact on the larger Grahamstown community through my ever expanding snake awareness program. In recognition of my contribution to the city, I was nominated for two prestigious awards by Rhodes University; namely the Rhodes Community Engagement Award and the Rhodes Environmental Award. Although… Read More

from the 13th to the 16th of August I attended the Joint SANBI Biodiversity Information Management & Foundational Biodiversity Information Programme (FBIP) Forum in Cape St Francis. I attended the conference with my supervisor Dr Shelley Edwards (Lecturer Rhodes University) and we were joined by my co-supervisor; Werner Conradie (PE Museum Head Herpetological Curator) and friend; Theo Busschau (Masters Student Stellenbosch University). The conference was well-attended with over a hundred delegates from… Read More

On Sunday the 18th of march I hosted a private snake ‘walk and talk’ for the nature club of Graham High School. Although it was intended as a two part event, only the talk took place because of the bad weather conditions. Due to the cold weather, and the intermittent thunderstorms, we were unable to go out and explore the wilder parts of Grahamstown, in search of reptiles and frogs. Nevertheless, the… Read More

On friday the 17th of November, myself and Luke Kemp hosted a ‘Herpetofauna of Grahamstown talk in the Rhodes Zoology and Entomology tea room for members of the department. The talk discussed all the reptiles and frogs that can be found in Grahamstown and gave tips on how to distinguish morphologically-similar species. The talk also discussed basic snakebite treatment and was capped off with a short demonstration with live specimens. All in… Read More

This list is in no particular order and is based on what I have seen inside or very close to Grahamstown. Boomslang (Dispholidus typus typus) Size: 1.2-1.5m. Habits: Diurnal snakes which are found in a large variety of habitats, most commonly in trees and shrubs, but may descend to the floor to bask or find food. Diet: Chameleons, frogs, tree-living lizards, birds and occasionally rodents. Danger to man: The boomslang possesses a very dangerous haemotoxic venom… Read More

Amatola Flat Gecko (Afroedura amatolica) Family: Gekkonidae. Size: 10-12cm. Distribution: They are endemic to the Amatola mountain range of Eastern Cape. Description: Small flat gecko with large eyes and a fat segmented tail. Adults are uniform white/grey with black/brown mottling all over the body. Habits: A rock-dwelling (rupiculous) species that can be found in rock cracks, often in large aggregations, in areas with grassland and thicket. Reproduction: Egg-laying species that lays two hard-shelled eggs underneath… Read More

Today I received my samples back from their holiday in Amsterdam, and I am happy to announce that all but one sample worked. The samples from today coupled with the samples I received last month amount to 75 successfully sequenced samples to date. These samples, which comprise four genes, make up a large proportion of my sample set and thus represent a massive step forward in the completion of my thesis. But… Read More

Recently I was contacted by a Rhodes journalism student who was in the process of completing an article about snakes for the Grocotts Mail. Although strange to admit, given my current path as a MSc zoology student focusing on snake genetics, I was once in her shoes, completing my hours at the Midrand Reporter in pursuit of my second year Rhodes Journalism and Media Studies credit. Although I am very much a ‘science kid’ now, I… Read More

The Herp Files was created by myself and Luke Kemp. It was created with the intention of showing off the reptiles and frogs of Southern Africa. The videos include general information about each species with interesting facts thrown in between. It is our attempt to expose the beauty of South Africa’s enormous herpetological diversity while having just a ‘bit’ of fun. This video focuses on the the cape cobra (Naja nivea), one… Read More

So as I am sure you have you gathered, I could not let the little ‘sheep stabbers’ go. Instead of just finishing my honours and leaving the skaapstekers in my rear view mirror, like I did with the painted reed frogs, I decided to continue on studying the snake with the addition of everyone else in the genus. Unlike with my honours, my masters will investigate the entire genus which is ‘currently’ six… Read More