During mid-June I ventured coast wards to do a frog talk for the Probus Club, at the Port Alfred Ski Boat Club. Check out the story, which was covered in ‘Talk of the Town’, the local Port Alfred newspaper.
On the 5th of June, I presented a snake awareness talk and demonstration for school students at Thomas Baines Nature Reserve, in honour of World Environmental Day. The talk was attended by various-aged primary school students from multiple different Grahamstown Schools.
There are few thing in this world as wonderful as watching a child handle a snake for the first time. It is the amalgamation of fear and awe, it is joy personified.
Although young, the students were incredibly receptive to what I had to say and almost every single one, no matter how apprehensive, took the opportunity to touch the harmless brown house snake on display. The talk was organised by the staff of Thomas Baines Nature Reserve in collaboration with the Eastern Cape Parks Board. It was a great day all round and I am happy I could be part of it.
During mid-June I ventured coast wards to do a frog talk for the Probus Club, at the Port Alfred Ski Boat Club. The talk was incredibly well received with over 80 people attending on the day. In addition to the members of the club, the talk was also attended by Talk of the Town (Local Port Alfred newspaper). In the talk I discussed basic frog biology, behavior and the threats that face amphibians.
The talk was capped off with a quick run through of all the frog species found in the Eastern Cape area. I thoroughly enjoyed giving this talk, because of the novel content coupled with an incredibly receptive audience. Thanks to the Probus Club for hosting me and for showing such a keen interest in one of our most underappreciated animals… frogs.
On friday the 10th of May, I set up a stand at the Science Open Day, hosted in the Rhodes University Life Sciences Building. I represented the field of Herpetology alongside several other members of the Zoology and Entomology Department, whom showcased their respective fields (Ornithology, Mammalogy, Biocontrol etc) on the day. The event was also attended by members from all the other departments in the Science Faculty. The event was geared towards sparking interest in science-orientated careers, in the high school students that attended the event. The students thoroughly enjoyed the event and took the opportunity to look at all the awesome things offered by the different departments. As expected, the snakes roused a lot of interest in the students, with many taking the opportunity to handle a snake for the first time. All in all, it was a great day for all that attended.
On the 5th of May I hosted the second ‘Critter Walk’ of 2019, for a record breaking crowd. Unlike previous ‘Critter walks’, everyone who attended had to pay a small fee, which was donated to two Rhodes athletes in a effort to raise funds for their Taekwondo World Championships, in Brazil, later this year.
Everyone met in front of the Life Sciences building and they were treated to a 45 minute snakes demonstration, featuring 11 different species of snake. The snaked demo was incredibly well received with several people taking the opportunity to handle a snake for the first time. After the snake demo, we all set off, in convoy, for a lekker piece of land just outside of Grahamstown.
Everyone enjoyed the wide open spaces, with many of the kids running off, only to be rediscovered hours later. The day was a massive success as we managed to find several species of scorpion, many different reptiles and tons of insects. All in all, the day was a massive success and something I am all to keen to replicate, in the not too distant future.
William Branch, Ninda Baptista, Chad Keates, Shelley Edwards
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, near Lubango, Angola. It allowed fuller descriptions of scalation and live coloration for both species, and resolution of their taxonomic status. Genetic analysis confirms that both are distinct at the specific level. In addition, within Psammophis, Jalla’s Sand Snake (Psammophis jallae Peracca, 1896), of which P. rohani Angel, 1925, remains a synonym, is sister to P. ansorgii, and Boulenger’s comment on similarities with P. crucifer are not supported. The status of an unusual skaapsteker from Calueque, Cunene Province, Angola, is discussed and its assignment to Ps. ocellatus is provisional and requires additional material for taxonomic resolution. The new P. ansorgii records from Tundavala represent a range (+400 km southwest) and altitude (1800 m to 2286 m a.s.l) extension from the previous only known precise locality of Bela Vista (= Catchiungo), Huambo Province, whilst that for Ps. ocellatus doubles the known altitude from 1108 m to 2286 m a.s.l and extends the range about 122 km to the northwest from historical material from the plateau of Huíla and Cunene provinces.
Psammophis ansorgii, Psammophylax ocellatus, new distribution, phylogenetic relationships, Angolan escarpment, montane grassland, Reptilia
Another great blog entry by Jessica Evans, that lists, explains and debunks some of the most popular myths pertaining to snakes.
Check out this awesome blog post by Sean McCabe, that details the reptiles of Grahamstown, and what makes them special.
At the beginning of 2018, myself and Luke joined the Rhodes ZEML (Zoology and Entomology Molecular Lab) herpetological cross-country field trip. The trip saw us adventuring throughout South Africa, in search of frogs and reptiles alike. The second video focuses on our time in Ndumo Game Reserve, in Northern Kwazulu Natal.
Recently, myself and Luke Kemp set off up a random mountain in Gauteng on an impromptu herping expedition. We were joined by Liam Baisley and Chanel Elizabeth Serfontein and with their help we were able to find a horned adder (Bitis caudalis), one of Southern Africa’s most iconic snakes.
On the 8th of march 2019, I attended the WESSA/ Grocott’s Mail #CelebrateNaturalHeritage Bio-Bash and Photo Walk at the Makana Botanical Gardens (part of Scifest 2019). The day was designed to teach the youth of Grahamstown about the amazing wildlife that surrounds them. It also aimed to ignite some creative flair through encouraging artistic expression through photography. My colleagues and I helped out by guiding the students through the gardens and helping them with their photography.
After the Bio-Bash and associated photography session, the students and mentors gathered for a photography crash course by the Rhodes Journalism Department. The day was capped off with me giving a short snake demonstration at the amphitheater at the bottom of the Botanical Gardens. At the end of the snake demo, I gave the kids the opportunity to handle some of the non-venomous on display. All in all, the day was a great success. Congratulations goes to both WESSA and Grocott’s Mail for organizing such an amazing event. Thanks also goes to both of them for allowing me to be part of such a worthwhile initiative. All Photos are property of Luthando Mpofu.
Check out the full article here: https://www.grocotts.co.za/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/15-March-2019.pdf
On the 11th of February 2019, I did a snake presentation for members of the Grahamstown Rotary Club at the Graemian Centre, Graeme College. The talk was well received with over 30 people attending on the day. I spoke about the common and endemic species of snake found in the Albany area, and what to do if one encounters a snake in their daily lives. In addition to detailing the snakes of the area, I also took the opportunity to discuss, in brief, the lizards, tortoises and scorpions found in the area. The talk was capped off with a short explanation of snake venom and what to do in the unlikely instance of a snakebite. Thank you to the Grahamstown Rotary Club for having me, and taking the opportunity to learn more about their local herpetofauna.
On the 27th of March 2019, I did a chameleon presentation for members of the Men’s League in Grahamstown. It was the second time I had addressed the group as I had spoken to the group a year before on the ‘Snakes of Grahamstown’. This time around I spoke about chameleons, their biology, and the different species found throughout South Africa. I capped the talk off with a short discussion of the myths surrounding the animals and the threats facing them. Thank you to the Men’s League for having me, and taking the opportunity to learn more about their local herpetofauna.
On the 12th of February 2019, I did a snake presentation for members of the Port Alfred Garden Club at the Port Alfred Gold Club. The talk was well received with over 50 people attending on the day. I spoke about the common and endemic species of snake found in the Albany area, and what to do if one encounters a snake in their daily lives. In addition to detailing the snakes of the area, I also took the opportunity to discuss, in brief, the lizards, tortoises and scorpions found in the area. The talk was capped off with a short explanation of snake venom and what to do in the unlikely instance of a snakebite. Thank you to the Port Alfred Garden Club for having me, and taking the opportunity to learn more about their local herpetofauna.
I am proud to announce that I have won best photo for the Terrestrial Vertebrate Category (Juvenile Boomslang) of the 2019 Zoology and Entomology Photo Competition. My prize was to have my photo hung up in the foyer of the Life Sciences Building. Thanks to all that voted.
On 16 December 2018, I ventured to Morgans bay, Eastern Cape with Megan Reid, for one night in search of as many as ‘herps’ as I could find. Whilst I was keen to see anything, I was particularly keen to see the regionally endemic Kentani Dwarf Chameleon (Bradypodion kentanicum), that calls Morgans Bay home. I stayed at the beautiful Yellowwood Forest Campsite, http://www.yellowwoodforest.co.za/, and managed to find many species of reptile and frog on the property itself.
All in all, it was a great trip with over 15 species of reptile and amphibian found. The two most memorable finds would probably be the Yellow-striped Reed Frog (Hyperolius semisdiscus) and the Kentani Dwarf Chameleon (Bradypodion kentanicum). I will definetly be returning in the future.
Some of the Species Found:
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.