Another great blog entry by Jessica Evans, that explains what to do if you get bitten by a snake, and the effects of the different types of snake venoms found in South Africa.
Check out this awesome blog post by Sean McCabe, that details myself, my relationship with snakes and the important role that local snakes species play in the ecosystem.
From the 20th to the 23rd of September, last year, myself and nine other researchers, set off for the Sneeuberg, in search of South Africa’s most elusive adder, the plain mountain adder (Bitis inornata). The trip was organised by the Bionerds (Keir and Alouise Lynch) and was attended by myself, Luke Kemp, Jo Buggs Balmer, Justin Rhys Nicolau, Gary Kyle Nicolau, Adriaan Jordaan, Christiaan Klippies Steenkamp and Faansie Peacock.
Whilst difficult given the secrecy of the species, we still expected to find at least one snake given the pedigree of scientists attending the trip. We were mistaken as we managed to find not one but three male plain mountain adders in just four days. The finds constituted the ninth, tenth and eleventh record ever found. It’s safe to say the trip was a massive success, we even managed to find several other awesome reptiles while we were there. Thanks to everyone that attended the trip, for the knowledge, the laughs, the lifers and of course… the plain mountain adders. for more information, check out the newspaper article detailing the trip and our awesome finds: https://www.graaffreinetadvertiser.com/News/Article/General/elusive-snake-found-by-school-boys-201810080122
Other Species Found:
From the 25th to the 29th of August 2018, myself and Luke Kemp herped in Cape Town, and it’s surrounds. We went towards the end of winter because unlike most trips, we were after the endemic frogs that call the Cape their home, and they love the cold, wet weather that the winter months have to offer. We ventured far and wide, and our travels saw us herping Silvermine, Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, Koeberg and Kogelberg Nature Reserve, to name a few.
We also met up with several amateur and professional herpers (Bryan Maritz, Theo Busschau, Andries Cilliers, Deon Oosthuizen and Willem van Zyl… to name a few). All in all, the trip was a blast and saw us finding lots of lifers in only a short few days.
Check out this awesome blog post by Kylie Jamison that details my life as a young herpetologist, and explains how I got to where I am today.
Another great blog entry by Jessica Evans, that explains what to do if you encounter a snake in South Africa.
Last year I was featured in an article by Oppidan Press, written by Kate Matooane. the article focuses on my ‘critter walks’ and the impact that they have on the people who attend.
Check out this awesome blog post written by Jessica Evans. The post details my thesis, photography and my general dealings with herpetofauna.
Southern Africa plays host to just over 150 different species of frog. In the Eastern Cape you can find approximately 32 different species of frog. All but five species have been listed below. These include The Giant Bullfrog (Pyxicephalus adspersus), Natal-leaf Folding Frog (Afrixalus spinifrons), Hogsback Chirping Frog (Anhydrophryne rattrayi), Sharp-nosed Grass Frog (Ptychadena oxyrhynchus) and Hewitt’s Ghost Frog (Heleophryne hewitti). For more information on each species, click on their names.
African Common frogs
Squeekers and Tree Frogs
On Sunday the 5th of February I hosted the first critter walk of 2019. Unlike previous critter walks, this one was geared towards collecting food for the Grahamstown branch of the SPCA. The event was well received, with quite a few people coming on the day and donating dog and cat food.
The day started out with a short snake demonstration, in which I showcased some of the snakes I had captured the week before on callouts, and was followed by a two hour ‘critter walk’ on a nearby farm. We managed to find several interesting species of reptile over the course of the morning. Although most people came to see the venomous snakes, it was great to see so much interest with the less ‘exciting’ lizards and snakes, which we found during the critter walk. Thanks goes to all that attended and helped on the day.
From the 5th to the 8th of February I took part in the Albany Museum, ‘Reptile Week’, in which I presented snake demonstrations to over 550 students in just four days. Although tiring, the experience was incredibly rewarding with many kids taking the opportunity to touch and interact with a snake for the first time in their lives. Most of the students were younger than nine years old and thus I opted to leave the PowerPoint presentation out, and get straight to the point.
The reptile demonstrations involved me walking around a room, filled with kids, allowing students to ask questions while I discussed the basic biology and ecology of the snakes on display. It was a different format to what I am used to, but all in all it was incredibly rewarding experience both for myself and the students I interacted with. I look forward to next years ‘Reptile Week’ with baited breath.
List of Talks
5 Feb Capstone Christian Primary: 23 learners and 3 educators.
6 Feb Capstone Christian Primary: 43 learners and 3 educators Oatlands Prep: 55 learners and 2 educators
7 Feb Capstone Christian Primary: 33 learners and 2 educators
Graeme College: 29 learners and 2 educators Ntaba Maria Primary: 82 learners and 3 educators P.J Olivier: 48 learners and 3 educators
Capstone Christian Primary: 14 learners and 3 educators
Oatlands Prep: 103 learners and 4 educators
Hendrik Kanise: Combined 133 and 6 educators
From the 2nd to the 6th of October 2018 I joined Werner Conradie (Head Curator of Herpetology at Port Elizabeth Museum) for a herping expedition to western Kwazulu Natal. We joined a crew of scientists from all over the country in an effort to find as many animals as we could, as part of large scale forest-focussed project, headed by Stellenbosch University. Whilst other scientific groups were tasked with finding snails, birds, bats and invertebrates, myself and Werner were tasked with finding as many reptiles and amphibians as we possibly could.
In our time there we traipsed through Ingeli forest and Gomo Forest and scoured the area surrounding Franklin and Kokstad. The trip was a success, with us finding most of our targets. In the end we managed to find over 15 different species of reptile and frog, with some of the most notable finds being natal black snake (Macrelaps microlepidotus), Kwazulu Natal dwarf chameleon (Bradypodion melanocephalum) and plaintive rainfrog (Breviceps verrucosus). We also managed to find a spotted skaapsteker (Psammophylax rhombeatus), my study animal, a massive bonus for the trip.
All in all it was a great trip with lots of laughs. Thanks ‘Werner Man’ for always making it fun.
On wednesday the 14th of November I hosted the last snake demonstration of 2018 in front of the Rhodes University, on Barratt lawns. The demo was incredibly well-attended with over fifty coming along on the day. At the snake demo I showcased all the snakes that I had removed from Grahamstown properties the week before.
Because of the warm weather that preceded the demo, the talk was also well-attended. So much so that I showcased over seven different species on the day. It was great day all around with both kids and retirees taking the opportunity to hold and interact with a snake for the first time. Thanks to all that attended, I look forward to hosting the first critter walk of 2019 in the coming weeks.
Towards the end of last year I hosted a Birthday Critter Walk for a young Grahamstown boy and all his friends. Whilst some kids like like to go to the cinema, or to the Go Kart track for their birthdays, that doesn’t seem to hold for the youth of Grahamstown, whom have an insatiable appetite for nature. The day was a great success and whilst we weren’t able to find any cape cobras or ‘monster pythons’, we were able to find a whole host of small and wonderful creatures, ranging from scorpions and spiders to frogs and lizards. Overall, It was a great day in the sun, with lots of laughs and even more reptiles.
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 year after next.
My masters work that originally focused on the skaapsteker genus (Psammophylax), will be expanded upon to create a study that looks at the entire sub-family (Psammophiinae). My updated focus will build on the molecular and morphometric work done in my masters and add an ecological element to create a more rounded, more sophisticated, more thorough explanation of the evolutionary mechanisms influencing the sub-family.
Never in a million years did I ever think I would be in this position. Back in grade ten I was called into the vice-principals office to discuss my subject selection. During this meeting, I was ‘advised’ to drop science, because I was told I lack the academic capabilities to pass the subject. Add Eight years and now I am doing my PhD. Whilst there were a lot of people that did not believe in me, there were a lot of people that did. Thanks to my family, my friends, my colleagues and my supervisors for all the support. Special thanks goes to my supervisors, Dr Shelley Edwards and Werner Conradie, for their constant support and belief in me, it is appreciated more than you can possibly imagine.
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 I spoke to members of the family and discussed snakes, snakes and more snakes. Warm thanks goes to the Department and to the Ranchhod family for considering me for this prestigious award.
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 the field of herpetology, not just what I put down on a piece of paper.
The bursary is in memory of Laura C Starke who graduated in Entomology and Botany at Rhodes University in 1969. She was a true nature lover and worked in the Protea Unit in Stellenbosch. She lost her life in a mountaineering accident on 26 October 1975.
As you may have noticed from my endless supply of content, I like to get out into the world… get into the wild. I like to feel it, touch it, hold it and see it, but above all else, I like to bridge the gap, to show people whats out there, to make science more accessible, so that everyone can marvel at the beauty of the world. Thank you to everyone that nominated me for this award, it is appreciated more than you can possibly imagine.