BDInsight – October 2020

October has been a busy month full of awesome BDI Citizen Scientist Hour talks and a great BioBashing trip to the Klein Karoo! Here in the lowveld region of South Africa we have had our first rains for the summer and the veld is alive with dungbeetles, reptiles, frogs and all sorts of amazing critters. October was a record month for the Virtual Museum!! An amazing total of 14,501 records were uploaded to the various biodiversity mapping projects in the VM.

October BDI Citizen Scientist Hours

We had some marvelous talks during October with topics ranging from rearing caterpillars to adventures in the Tundra in Russia! You can access the entire playlist for October on our YouTube Channel.

Craig Peter, Associate Professor in the Botany Department at Rhodes University, gave a fascinating talk on butterfly pollination in South Africa. Craig has been using LepiMAP data to better understand butterfly pollination and butterfly-plant interactions. You can view his talk below:

Dembo Jatta and Oliver Fox gave an amazing presentation on bird migration research, conservation and education in at Kartong Bird Observatory in The Gambia. And Aisha S. Magaji shared the awesome biodiversity from Wasai Reservoir in north-western Nigeria with us.

Ouberg BioBash

Ouberg Private Nature Reserve, owned by Richard and Sue Gie, is situated 20 km from Montagu, in the Western Cape Province of South Africa, on the Ouberg Pass road. Ouberg PNR is located at the confluence of three of South Africa’s Biomes: Succulent Karoo, Fynbos and Albany Thicket. The diverse combination of soils, topography, vegetation types and the climate, means that Ouberg is home to an incredible diversity of flora and fauna. A team of BDI BioMAPpers set off to go and explore Ouberg. Activities for the BioBash included: bird ringing, bird atlasing, and biomapping. We asked some of the BioBash members to share their thoughts on their experience at Ouberg.

A beautiful Olive Thrush, ringed and ready for release

Susan Gie: It was such a privilege to be able to share our small patch of the Little Karoo with people who share my love of biodiversity and the outdoors.  The week began quietly and once everyone had arrived, there was permanent action, excited yelps, quiet stalking to get a photo of a flitty creature, discussion, questions, some up with the sparrows (or the hungry red-winged starling chicks nesting on the stoep) to head out to BirdPix and Atlas in the surrounding pentads, rummaging through books to ID fauna and flora, and sharing stories and laughs while cooking and enjoying supper. I was blown away by the Lepidoptera found on Ouberg.  I had two lifers – Lesser Honeyguide and Grey-winged Francolin on OPNR.  Our fauna species list has grown significantly thanks to the enthusiasm and keen eyes of fellow scientists and citizen scientists.  All this will go towards getting our farm becoming a recognized protected area – we wish to apply for stewardship through Cape Nature and WWF.  Thank you everyone.

Karis in bird ringing mode – Ouberg Nature Reserve

Karis Daniel: At the beginning of the week, Sue shared that even after ten years on the farm, Ouberg still manages to surprise her. There is something so special about experiencing familiar places with new eyes, and learning to see life that is typically overlooked. For me, Ouberg was exactly that: a chance to step into someone else’s “happy place” and see the natural world through their eyes. This was a week of rock-flipping, bird-ringing, star-gazing overall biodiversity magnificence–the excitement was both tangible and abundant. I learned a great deal from this BioBash, but especially the value of a diverse, multi-talented team. The collective knowledge of the group was staggering, and between all of us, we managed to find and identify species ranging from stick insects to succulents. We laughed loads, learned more, and leaned into rich and captivating community. Leaving more full than when I arrived, and hungry for so much more!

In full bloom – Ouberg Nature Reserve

Salome Willemse writes: I enjoyed the tranquility and serenity of Ouberg – full of rich biodiversity! To me the highlight was most certainly ringing very special birds such as Lesser Honeyguide and Cardinal Woodpecker.

Joshua Olszewski kept a great list of all the butterflies found and photographed during the Ouberg BioBash. Butterflies seen on the farm:

Karoo Widow Tarsocera fulvina
Western Hillside Brown Stygionympha vigilans
Cape Dull Brown Cassionympha detecta
Painted Lady Vanessa cardui
Little Rocksitter Durbaniella clarki
Cape Black-Eye Leptomyrina lara
Large Silver-Spotted Copper Trimenia argyroplaga
Karoo Silver-Spotted Copper Trimenia mcmasteri
Plain Russet Aloeides
Black-Bordered Russet Aloeides juana
Karoo Opal Chrysoritis turneri
Lysander Opal Chrysoritis pan lysander
Eastern Sorrel Copper Lycaena clarki
Dickson’s Geraniun Bronze Cacyreus dicksoni
Dwarf Blue Oraidium barberae
Southern Meadow White Pontia helice

Lysander Opal Chrysoritis pan lysander – LepiMAP record by Ryan Tippett

Other butterflies seen during the biobash:

African Plain Tiger Danaus chrysippus
Table Mountain Beauty Aeropetes tulbaghia
Rainforest Dull Brown Cassionympha cassius
Yellow Pansy Junonia hierta
Bowker’s Marbled Sapphire Stugeta bowkeri
Burnished Opal Chrysoritis chrysaor
Steel-blue Ciliate Blue Anthene definita
Cupreous Ash Blue Eicochrysops messapus
Citrus Swallowtail Papilio demodocus
Smoky Orange Tip Colotis equippe omphale

Cape black-eye – Kaapse Swartogie – Leptomyrina lara – LepiMAPped on Ouberg Nature Reserve by Ryan Tippett

November BDI Citizen Scientist Hours

Our November dates for BDI Citizen Scientist Hours are: 4, 10, 16 and 26 November 2020. We have some great talks lined up for the month, so don’t miss out! You can connect with us via Zoom and join in on the discussions or follow along on the livestreams broadcasted via the BDI Citizen Science Facebook page.

Harpactira dictator – SpiderMAPped at Ouberg Nature Reserve by Ryan Tippett

If a river could talk…

Looking out over the peaceful Seekoei River, the reeds swaying in the breeze, I find it hard to fathom the horrible atrocities that happened here almost 250 years ago. On 23 September 1775, colonial explorers Robert Jacob Gordon and Baron Joachim Ammena van Plettenberg from Netherlands shot and killed as many as 26 hippo in one day on the Seekoei River (meaning Hippo River) that runs through the semi desert Karoo region of the Northern Cape of South Africa. A 1777 painting by RJ Gordon portrays one such hunting party in full flagrant sway. French explorer François le Vaillant writes at the end of the 18th century about how he fashioned a plate from the foot of a hapless hippo. 

Hippopotamus hunt at the Seekoei River, Robert Jacob Gordon, 1778

About 230 years later, PC Ferreira, a passionate sheep farmer and the heart behind the KhoiSan Karoo Conservancy, realized the immense loss to the environment and conservation, suffered generations ago, when the last Seekoei River hippos were shot and killed in the late 1700’s. These were the last remaining hippos in the Karoo and the Northern Cape. PC decided to take action and initiated a hippo reintroduction project in 2000. It would eventually take 6 years for this project to bear fruit, but in 2006 a small breeding group of hippos were released on the then recently established Karoo Gariep Conservancy (est. 2005). Now known as KhoiSan Karoo Conservancy, which includes the formally proclaimed Karoo Gariep Nature Reserve (est 2015) and Hanover Aardvark Nature Reserve. 

Hippopotamus amphibius capensis (Hippopotamus), Robert Jacob Gordon, c. 1777
A happy hippo in his namesake river, the Seekoei River. Photo by Steve Moseley, Hirsh Aronowitz and Keith Titley, CountryLife

For his contribution to conservation PC was awarded the SANParks Kudu Award in 2008. Over the next 14 years five hippos were born from the original group, but sadly the old bull killed all of them. The old bull died in 2017 and in 2019 we lost the cow. Only one strong and healthy, but very lonely, young bull remains and he is in desperate need of a family. We are raising funds to introduce three hippo cows and reestablish a healthy hippo family in the Seekoei River in the Karoo Gariep Nature Reserve. This hippo family will be the only hippo family in the Northern Cape. In time our goal is to establish a viable wild hippo population all along the Seekoei River, which is 300 km in length and can accommodate at least 80 hippos. Our goal is to restore the Seekoei River valley to its pristine, wild and natural state so that wildlife and humans can thrive together and prosper. You can help us by donating to this worthy conservation cause.

The Big Dream

The Karoo Wildlife Conservation Project vision came about after the success of the wildlife re-introduction program and proclamation of the Karoo Gariep Nature reserve. PC figured, why stop there, why not have the entire Seekoei River as a conservation area? This ambitious initiative will encompass an area of 450,000 hectares, from Kompasberg (near Nieu Bethesda) in the south all along the Seekoei River to the Doornkloof Nature Reserve where the river flows into the Vanderkloof Dam. This initiative is in partnership with the Northern Cape Department of Environment and Conservation (DENC), and the first phase of the project, consisting of five private landowners working together (representing 35 000 hectares) is well under way towards formal proclamation!

The beautiful Seekoei River

Biodiversity is in trouble globally. We need to do everything we can to rewild areas that were once wildlife havens. The Karoo Wildlife Conservation Project is one such opportunity. Nature provides so much for us on a daily basis, we cannot survive without nature and healthy functioning ecosystems. You can help us rewild the Karoo and give back to nature by contributing to the Karoo Wildlife Conservation Project.

BDI YouTube Channel: three months of growth!

The BDI launched its YouTube channel on 2 July. Three months later, the channel contained 61 videos and these videos had had more than 3,000 views.

Up to now the videos have had three themes: BDI Citizen Scientist Hours, BDI Virtual BioBases, and a “How to” series. We are planning to add more categories soon. The focus is very much on the Citizen Science Department of the BDI.

BDI Citizen Scientist Hours

In July, August and September we held nine Citizen Scientist Hours. These are Zoom events, and usually have three presenters each. We record the talks and upload them to the YouTube channel. We highlight here the top three Citizen Science Hour presentations.. The most-viewed of all of these is by Sidney Shema, who is coordinator of the bird atlas project in Kenya, KenyaBirdMap. Sidney’s presentation on The Avifauna of Kenya has had 182 views in just weeks: here it is:

Sidney gave a great overview of birds and birding in Kenya. He is also the presenter of the third most viewed presentation, with 146 views. This was about the project he leads, KenyaBirdMap, and you can view it here:

The video in second place was presented by Clara Cassell. She gave a fascinating presentation on the initiation of the bird atlas project in Liberia. She described the challenges being faced in getting the atlas started in this West African country. This is an project that really needs support:

Explore these and all the other Citizen Scientist Hour videos in the BDI YouTube Channel.

BDI Virtual BioBash

The next group of videos relates to the Virtual BioBashes. These generally are in support of the Virtual Museum. These also aim to be an hour long, but often go into injury time. The citizen scientists who present these are volunteers, and the general pattern is to start with a few photos that show the area in which they worked. We have experienced amazing virtual tours of some remote parts of Africa. Next up are a bunch of photos which have (or are about to be) uploaded to the website of the Virtual Museum. These are the species that the observers have been most excited about.

The most viewed contribution to a Virtual BioBash was by Osman Gedow who gave a fascinating presentation on his BioMAPping activities in Somalia. It has been viewed 101 times:

Here is a video that was presented and uploaded only four days ago, but which has already had 41 views. This is the first marine biobash, and it is both coastal and underwater! View it here:

“How to”

Megan Loftie-Eaton has produced four important “How to” videos. How to photograph butterfies and moths, how to photograph dragonflies, how to set up a camera trap and how to create a species distribution map in the Virtual Museum. Here are short cuts to these four videos:

Endnote

We have been delighted at the response to the Zoom events and to the resulting videos on the BDI YouTube channel. Please explore all the videos in the channel, and not only the ones highlighted here.

If you have ideas and suggestions for presentations, please contact Megan Loftie-Eaton, Itxaso Quintana or me. Please contact us also if you would like to “attend” events.

BDInsight – September 2020

Spring has sprung and biomapping has begun! Here in the southern hemisphere we welcome back the arrival of several migrant bird species. Have you seen any of late? Please remember to upload your photos to BirdPix in the Virtual Museum.

BDI Citizen Scientist Hours

Lockdown, although not the best experience, has certainly brought the citizen science community closer in several ways. Over the past few months we have held regular virtual meetings, on Zoom, and connected the citizen science family from all over Africa. It is often while in the midst of a ‘disaster’ that wonderful opportunities arise. The BDI Citizen Scientist Hours have been a great way to connect scientists and citizens across the African continent.

During these hour events we have three speakers, each giving a 15 minute talk. The topics are always varied and informative and roughly fall within the categories of ecology, wildlife conservation, environmental studies, biology, social science, urban ecology, wildlife management, statistics, taxonomy, nature appreciation and environmental education. We are always looking for volunteers, so if you are keen to give a talk during a BDI Citizen Scientist Hour, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

You can catch up on all our previous Citizen Scientist Hours by visiting our YouTube Channel

September Citizen Science Week

Our first Citizen Science Week for the 2020/21 season was held from 19 to 27 September 2020. Below is a table showing a record breakdown per Virtual Museum project. In total, citizen scientists snapped and mapped 4604 records on African biodiversity during the Week. Well done!

VM ProjectRecords
BirdPix1853
BOP1
DungBeetleMAP19
EchinoMAP0
FishMAP6
FrogMAP55
LacewingMAP46
LepiMAP1123
MammalMAP264
MushroomMAP257
OdonataMAP318
OrchidMAP62
PHOWN22
ReptileMAP157
ScorpionMAP59
SpiderMAP329
TreeMAP23
VultureMAP10
TOTAL4604

During one of our BDI Virtual BioBASHES, Les Underhill took us through some of the interesting stats of the September Citizen Science Week. You can view his talk below:

We have Citizen Science Weeks planned for every month of the 2020/21 season! So don’t miss out. Keep an eye on our Facebook page for the event dates and details.

BestSeptember for the Virtual Museum

Team Virtual Museum added 9,495 records to species distribution maps in September. That is a fantastically large number in comparison with the previous BestSeptember of 6,972 records. We exceeded the target, set in 2018, by an inflation-beating 36%. That is a huge achievement, BioMAPpers, well done.

At the end of September, the total number of records for 2020 so far is already ahead of where it was at the end of October last year. So far, there are 84,458 records for 2020. At the end of October last year there were 83,812. We are a whole month ahead!

We are aiming to achieve two goals. Continuously “refresh” old records with new ones. This provides evidence that the species still persists in a grid cell. And secondly, we are aiming to make the species lists for every grid cell more comprehensive.

The target for BestOctober was set in 2017. It is 7,438 records. (In both October 2018 and October 2019, it was very dry. Submissions, especially to LepiMAP and OdonataMAP were small as a result. That is why we go all the way back to 2017 for BestOctober.)

Citizen Science Week #1 from 19 to 27 September 2020: LepiMAP in South Africa, eSwatini and Lesotho

LepiMAP is the Atlas of African Lepidoptera. LepiMAP is one of the sections of the Virtual Museum. From September 2020, the project has been hosted jointly by the FitzPatrick Institute and the Biodiversity and Development Institute (BDI). Project funding is via the BDI.

207,000 records were uploaded through the Virtual Museum website in the decade between 1 July 2010 and 30 June 2020. Of these 144,000 (70%) were uploaded in the five-year period 1 July 2015 and 30 June 2020. That is nearly 30,000 records per year over the five year period. 26 countries have 50 or more LepiMAP records.

The total size of the LepiMAP database is 558,000 records; this includes the database of mainly specimen records compiled for the SABCA project (Southern African Butterfly Conservation Assessment), Virtual Museum records prior to July 2010, and few bulk uploads that go directly into the database. This is one of the largest databases of its kind, globally. Identifications are done by experts, not by democracy.

The first Citizen Science Week of the 2020/2021 season started on Saturday 19 September 2020, and runs to the end of the following weekend, Sunday 27 September. It’s a nine-day week! The objective of the Citizen Science Weeks is to improve the quality of the distribution maps for all the species covered by the Virtual Museum, throughout Africa. There will be a Citizen Science Week every month.

This blog shows the “state of play” with LepiMAP on 22 September 2020. This month, the focus is on South Africa, eSwatini and Lesotho

LepiMAP gives everyone in Africa the opportunity to contribute to the Atlas of African Lepidoptera. In order to participate all you need to do to contribute is to take photos of butterflies and moths. Here is guidance on how to take photographs of butterflies and moths. Upload the photos to the LepiMAP section of the Virtual Museum. Here is guidance on how to upload photos to the Virtual Museum. Members of the expert panel will do their best to identify the butterfly or moth in the photo. The moths are really difficult!

Below are the LepiMAP species richness maps for each of the provinces of South Africa. The number in each quarter degree grid cell is the number of species recorded in that grid cell so far. The grid cells with at least one species are shaded. The yellower the grid cell, the fewer species recorded in it. The aim is to first of all turn the grid cell from white to yellow, and then to shift it along the yellow-red axis until it turns bright red. Please make a special effort to submit records to the Virtual Museum during the remainder of the First Citizen Science Week, and may the momentum gained carry you through until the next Citizen Science Week in October.

We will work through the provinces of South Africa in alphabetical order, starting with the Eastern Cape and ending with the Western Cape. There is a single map for Gauteng and Mpumalanga, presented after the map for Limpopo. The last two maps are for eSwatini and Lesotho.

LepiMAP coverage in the Eastern Cape on 22 September 2020.
LepiMAP coverage in the Free State on 22 September 2020.
LepiMAP coverage in KwaZulu-Natal on 22 September 2020.
LepiMAP coverage in Limpopo on 22 September 2020.
LepiMAP coverage in Gauteng and Mpumalonga on 22 September 2020.
LepiMAP coverage in the Northern Cape on 22 September 2020.
LepiMAP coverage in North-West Province on 22 September 2020.
LepiMAP coverage in the Western Cape on 22 September 2020.

LepiMAP on YouTube

Since July, the BDI has been holding Citizen Scientist Hours. LepiMap has featured prominently in several of them. The presentations at these Zoom events become videos on the BDI YouTube channel, and you can watch any that you have missed. On Wednesday 9 September 2020, the seventh Citizen Scientist Hour was entirely devoted to butterflies and LepiMAP. The three presentations can be viewed on the YouTube channel:

  •  Oskar Brattström: Butterflies – Africa’s most exciting animals

  •  Fanie Rautenbach: The great LepiMAP challenge

Fanie’s talk needs to be looked at in conjunction with the blog called Fanie Ratenbach’s Great LepiMAP Challenge 2020/21. In a nutshell, 112 species butterfly recorded in South Africa, Lesotho and eSwatini don’t have photos in LepiMAP at all, and 56 species don’t have LepiMAP records in the past five years.

  •  Steve Woodhall: Looking for butterflies

Citizen Science Week #1 from 19 to 27 September 2020: OdonataMAP in South Africa

OdonataMAP is the Odonata Atlas of Africa. OdonataMAP is one of the sections of the Virtual Museum. From September 2020, the project has been hosted jointly by the FitzPatrick Institute and the Biodiversity and Development Institute (BDI). Major aspects of the OdonataMAP project are funded by the JRS Biodiversity Foundation through a grant that is administered by the Freshwater Research Centre. The Freshwater Research Centre has a JRS Biodiversity Foundation grant for developing a Freshwater Biodiversity Information System (FBIS) which will integrate the OdonataMAP data into its systems. The JRS Biodiversity Foundation has made a huge contribution to making biodiversity data accessible to policymakers, conservation managers and researchers.

94,000 records have been uploaded to OdonataMAP through the Virtual Museum website. Of these 82,000 (70%) have been uploaded since the beginning of 2015. That is about 15,000 photo records of dragonflies and damselflies per year. Identifications in OdonataMAP are done by an expert panel.

These 94,000 records are supplemented by 121,000 records from the ADDO database, the Odonata Database for Africa. This database was compiled by K-D Dijkstra and team, funded between 2012 and 2016 by the JRS Biodiversity Foundation. When the OdonataMAP and ADDO databases are combined, the total number of records is 215,000. This is one of the largest databases of its kind, globally.

The first Citizen Science Week of the 2020/2021 season starts this Saturday 19 September 2020, and runs to the end of the following weekend, Sunday 27 September. It’s a nine-day week! The objective of the Citizen Science Weeks is to improve the quality of the distribution maps for all the species covered by the Virtual Museum, throughout Africa. There will be a Citizen Science Week every month.

This blog shows the “state of play” with OdonataMAP on 17 September 2020. This month, the focus is on South Africa.

OdonataMAP gives everyone in Africa the opportunity to contribute to the Odonata Atlas of Africa. In order to participate all you need to do to contribute is to take photos of dragonflies and damselflies. Here is guidance on how to “shoot your dragons!”. Upload the photos to the OdonataMAP section of the Virtual Museum. Here is guidance on how to upload photos to the Virtual Museum. Members of the expert panel will do their best to identify the dragonfly or damselfly in the photo(s). There can be one, two or three photos for a single record; if you can, try to take the photos from different angles. This helps the expert panel.

Below are the OdonataMAP species richness maps for each of the provinces of South Africa. The number in each quarter degree grid cell is the number of species recorded in that grid cell so far. The grid cells with at least one species are shaded. The yellower the grid cell, the fewer species recorded in it. The aim is to first of all turn the grid cell from white to yellow, and then to shift it along the yellow-red axis until it turns bright red. The yellow to red scales vary between provinces; if the scale used for KwaZulu-Natal was applied to the Northern Cape, the latter province would be almost entirely yellow!If a grid cell has a zero in it, this means that none of the records submitted for the grid cell could be identified to species level.

We will work through the provinces in alphabetical order, starting with the Eastern Cape and ending with the Western Cape. There is a single map for Gauteng and Mpumalanga, presented after the map for Limpopo.

Before we wrote this blog, we sent these coverage maps to John Wilkinson who leads the expert panel for OdonataMAP. His comments: “It is exciting to see the species counts increasing in a lot of quarter degree grid cells. This is the result of more citizen scientists contributing but also of regular visits to the same area right through the year. The coverage map for KwaZulu-Natal is the example we should strive towards in all provinces. I know that it is Alan Manson who is mostly responsible for this superb coverage, but in recent years Ryan Tippet, Richard Johnstone, Diana Russel and many others have contributed huge numbers of records. They have both refreshed old records and made range extensions.”

John is 100% right. We should strive to make all the provinces comparable with KwaZulu-Natal.

OdonataMAP coverage in the Eastern Cape on 17 September 2020.
OdonataMAP coverage in the Free State on 17 September 2020
OdonataMAP coverage in KwaZulu-Natal on 17 September 2020
OdonataMAP coverage in Limpopo on 17 September 2020
OdonataMAP coverage in Gauteng and Mpumalanga on 17 September 2020
OdonataMAP coverage in the Northern Cape on 17 September 2020
OdonataMAP coverage in North-West Province on 17 September 2020
OdonataMAP coverage in the Western Cape on 17 September 2020

Winter BioMAPping and Botanizing in Venda

On Friday, 12 June 2020, my friend Ruan Stander and I embarked on a reptile-and-plant-biomapping expedition in Venda. Venda is a wonderful and wild region in north-eastern South Africa. It is a very biodiverse area and poorly biomapped.  Ruan is the expert on reptiles and amphibians; my own specialty is plants. It was the middle of winter here in South Africa, but where we went, it was warm, and at a much lower altitude than our hometown of Polokwane. The climate around Venda is ideal for cold-blooded critters. We set up our tents a short distance from the Cross Dam on the Nwanedzi River. The region is sparsely populated; we only met some folks at the dam on the first day, and on the second night some people came by our tents with flashlights and dogs; they might have been hunting, and didn’t bother us. We also went to the small settlement of Masisi, the Bende-Mutale region, and the Honnet Nature Reserve, but we slept each night at our Cross Dam camp.

Cross Dam

Ruan’s goal is to find and photograph as many of Limpopo’s reptile species as possible.  He had several goals for this outing; and we found at least some of our targets! The habitat at Cross Dam is rocky hills covered in arid woodland. There are patches of lush riverine forest with large trees bordering the Nwanedzi River. A bit to the north, there are flat, sandy areas. At Masisi there are well-vegetated rocky hills; Bende Mutale is mainly flat, dry Mopane veld. Honnet Nature Reserve has a dry climate, with a large, rocky hill and an old, huge, now-vegetated dune of red Kalahari sand.  These all gave us numerous habitats for finding different reptile species.

I was of course also interested in the plant life! The hills around Venda are a northern extension of the Soutpansberg Mountain range, one of the most plant-diverse parts of South Africa.  A tree that is very characteristic of this region is the Lebombo Ironwood, Androstachys johnsonii, an ancient species that occurs in South Africa and Madagascar.  In higher rainfall areas of the mountains, they form dense forests, but in the dry areas the trees were shrubby and stunted, only occasionally forming small thickets. Other characteristic plants of this region are the giant Baobab trees, one of which was pretty much the tallest one I’ve ever seen – close to 30 m! 

Baobab Adansonia digitata

The region is characterized by several other thick-set trees and large succulents, like Star-chestnuts, Sterculia rogersii, Sesame Bushes, Sesamothamnus lugardii, the grotesque Elephant’s Foot, Adenia spinosa, and the beautiful flowering Impala Lily, Adenium multiflorum. The impala lilies we came across were some of the largest I have ever seen, about 2,5 m tall, with trunks more than 0,5 m in thickness. The flowers were lovely amidst the dry, harsh landscape. 

Sesame Bush Sesamothamnus lugardii with Ruan for scale

Another amazing thick-stemmed specimen was of a Sesame Bush (photo above), that appeared to be two separate plants, but was actually a single plant – just as with the Wonderboom Fig tree in Pretoria, but on a more modest scale. One branch drooped to the ground, set root, and produced a second trunk with branches. It’s the first time I have seen this happening with anything other than a fig tree. I was happy to note numerous individuals of other trees I consider as fairly rare, such as the Propeller Tree, Gyrocarpus americanus subsp. africanus and the Mountain Mahogany, Entandrophragma caudatum.  

Impala Lily Adenium multiflorum
Carrion flower Stapelia getliffei

Other nice finds included two species of carrion flower in the genus Stapelia, a rare tree-like succulent restricted to the Soutpansberg mountains, Euphorbia zoutpansbergensis, and a Sand Impala Lily or Bitterkambro, Adenium oleifolium, in the sandy region to the north of our camp.  The Bitterkambro is related to the Impala Lily, and is more typical of the Kalahari Desert region. This record we found is the most easterly record as far as I am aware, so it was a wonderful find. 

Bitterkambro Adenium oleifolium

The Honnet Nature Reserve had interesting dune plants; and one of the largest Shepherd’s Trees, Boscia albitrunca, I’ve ever seen, with Ruan for comparison (seen in the cover photo).  In Afrikaans it’s known as a Witgat or Matoppie. This is an arid-adapted species, that has among the longest roots in the entire plant kingdom. A medium-sized Shepherd’s Tree can have a tap root going down into the sandy soil as deep as 60 m!

We were looking for reptiles day and night. Flat lizards, Platysaurus rhodesianus, and rainbow skinks, Trachylepis margaritifer, clung to the steep rock faces around the dam region, as well as tropical spiny agamas, Agama armata.  At night, we found flat geckoes, Afroedura pienaari, velvet geckoes, Homopholis wahlbergii, Turner’s geckoes, Chondrodactylus turneri, tropical house geckoes, Hemidactylus mabouia (using a huge baobab as a house), and one of our targets, the Tiger Thick-toed Gecko, Pachydactylus tigrinus. Young ones curl their tails up over their backs in defense, to resemble scorpions (of which we also found many!).  We also found a few geckoes during the day, including a Speckled Thick-toed Gecko, Pachydactylus punctatus, and some Bradfield’s Dwarf Geckoes, Lygodactylus bradfieldi.

Tiger Thick-toed Gecko Pachydactylus tigrinus
Spotted-necked Snake-eyed Skink Panaspis maculicollis

In the day, in the woodland, we encountered bushveld lizards, Heliobolus lugubris, common rough-scaled lizards, Meroles squamulosus, Holub’s sandveld lizards, Nucras holubi, LOTS of Damara variable skinks, Trachylepis damarana, and the small but cute spotted-necked snake-eyed skink, Panaspis maculicollis.  Under rocks and logs, we found the burrowing species.  These lizards have reduced or even missing limbs.  They’re a wonderful example of natural selection taking place almost in front of your eyes as you compare the different stages of leg reduction. Sundevall’s writhing skink, Mochlus sundevallii, a sleek and glossy species, still has small but fully-formed limbs, but the Limpopo dwarf burrowing skink, Scelotes limpopoensis, has tiny legs and mere stubs for ‘arms’.  The Richard’s legless skink, Acontias richardi, as you might conclude has no legs at all; though resembling a small snake, it is still a proper lizard – like the other two, it belongs to the skink family.  It’s a rare species, restricted to the region. 

Richard’s legless skink Acontias richardi

We did find a true snake, a tiny black-headed centipede eater, Aparallactus capensis; showing its “snakeness”, it fitfully flicked out its little tongue as we held it. One of the most special finds of the outing was made by Given, a local who joined us on the Bende-Mutale and Masisi parts of our excursion. It was a slender spade-snouted worm lizard, Monopeltis sphenorhynchus! These reptiles look amazingly similar to earthworms. They belong to a group called the Amphisbaenians, a sister group of the true lizards. 

Spade Snouted Worm Lizard Monopeltis sphenorhynchus

Apart from the reptiles, there were many other memorable moments of the trip. We encountered mammals: at night, the thick-tailed bush-babies called all around us. We found gerbils amongst the rocks and also a mouse, which I couldn’t identify, but got so close to it that I touched it! We also encountered a genet close to our car, and each morning, as we sat in the car and ate breakfast, a little rock elephant shrew came out and hopped about the rocks and stones next to the river. Elephant shrews or Sengis, are remarkable critters, actually more closely related to elephants than to other shrews. On the rocky hills, we saw what might have been a bush hyrax. And we had sightings of Chacma baboons.

Rock Elephant Shrew Elephantulus myurus
Halfcollared Kingfisher Alcedo semitorquata

We encountered birds: along the stretch of river where we had parked, there were no less than three species of kingfisher! The giant kingfishers called and flew noisily back and forth; the pied kingfisher was rather more subdued, and least obtrusive of all, but quite lovely, were a couple of half-collared kingfishers that had their territory amidst some lovely riverine forest trees. One morning a Burchell’s coucal, usually a shy bird, sunned itself out in the open in front of our car, displaying its beautiful bright reddish-brown wings. We even glimpsed a splendid Verreaux’s Eagle soaring high above the cliffs.

Dwarf Puddle Frog Phrynobatrachus mababiensis

We encountered amphibians: at night, near the river we found river frogs, some of them even mating in the middle of winter!  There were also tropical clawed frogs in the still pools, and we found a little dwarf Puddle frog, Phrynobatrachus mababiensis, as well.

Common River Frog Amietia delalandei

We encountered invertebrates galore! Looking for reptiles under rocks and logs, we often found spiders, scorpions, centipedes, millipedes, woodlice, cockroaches, ants and termites. In the photo below Ruan is holding a large scorpion.  The scorpion was quite placid and at any rate its thin tail shows that it’s not very dangerous.  An unusual sighting was that of a mole cricket (Gryllotalpa species) next to the river at night. This species is well-known for occurring in well-watered suburban gardens, but its natural habitat is that of moist grassy spots next to rivers or pools. 

We found 25 different reptile species in all.  I found some rare and unexpected plants.  It was quite a successful bio-surveying outing.  Reptiles, as well as plants, are quite vulnerable to environmental changes, and thus can serve as indicators of environmental health.  But more importantly, they are beautiful, exquisite and fascinating beings in their own right, and they all deserve as much protection as we can give them. A big thank you to Ruan, Given, and our Honnet Nature Reserve Guide, Joseph Saunders, for a lovely adventure.


PHOTO CREDITS:

Ruan Stander: Bradfield’s Dwarf Gecko, Campsite, Common River Frog, Cross Dam, Dwarf Puddle Frog, Euphorbia zoutpansbergensis with me, Halfcollared Kingfisher, Huge Baobab with me, Impala Lily flowers, Limpopo Dwarf Burrowing Skink, Richard’s Legless Skink, Rock Elephant Shrew, Spade Snouted Worm Lizard, Spotted-necked Snake-eyed Skink, Tiger Thick-toed Gecko (both), Tropical Spiny Agama.

Willem van der Merwe: Baobab, Bitterkambro, Black-headed Centipede Eater, Stapelia getliffei flower, Stapelia kwebensis plant, Elephant’s foot with Ruan, Euphorbia zoutpansbergensis, Impala lily plant, Impala lily with Ruan, Scorpion, Sesame Bush with Ruan, Sundevall’s Writhing Skink, Shepherd’s Tree with Ruan.

Citizen Science Week #1 from 19 to 27 September 2020: BirdPix in South Africa

The first Citizen Science Week of the 2020/2021 season starts this Saturday 19 September 2020, and runs to the end of the following weekend, Sunday 27 September. It’s a nine-day week! The objective of the Citizen Science Weeks is to improve the quality of the distribution maps for all the species covered by the Virtual Museum, throughout Africa. There will be a Citizen Science Week every month.

This blog shows the “state of play” with BirdPix on 16 September 2020. This month, the focus is on South Africa. We are very keen to boost the coverage of BirdPix here; Karis Daniel is going to use this dataset to make maps which can be compared with the definitive distribution maps for bird species in South Africa, emerging from SABAP2.

BirdPix gives everyone in Africa the opportunity to contribute to the African Bird Atlas Project. In order to participate in the bird atlas along the “normal” route, you need to be pretty confident of your bird identification skills in your region. But if you lack that confidence, you can still make a valuable contribution to the atlas by taking photos of birds (even really poor ones), uploading them to BirdPix, and members of the expert panel will do their best to identify the bird in the photo.

Here are the BirdPix species richness maps for each of the provinces of South Africa. The number in each quarter degree grid cell is the number of species recorded in that grid cell so far. The grid cells with at least one species are shaded. The yellower the grid cell, the fewer species recorded in it. The aim is to first of all turn the grid cell from white to yellow, and then to shift it along the yellow-red axis until it turns bright red.

We will work through the provinces in alphabetical order, starting with the Eastern Cape and ending with the Western Cape. There is a single map for Gauteng and Mpumalanga, presented after the map for Limpopo.

BirdPix coverage in the Eastern Cape on 16 September 2020.
BirdPix coverage in the Free State on 16 September 2020.
BirdPix coverage in the KwaZulu-Natal on 16 September 2020.
BirdPix coverage in the Limpopo on 16 September 2020.
BirdPix coverage in the Gauteng and Mpumalanga on 16 September 2020.
BirdPix coverage in the Northern Cape on 16 September 2020.
BirdPix coverage in North West Province on 16 September 2020.
BirdPix coverage in the Western Cape on 16 September 2020.

Every province has quarter degree grid cells with a large species richness, and which are shaded red. do not yet have any data at all. The number of grid cells with no data at all is steadily decreasing.

Go to this blog to learn how to work out the six-character code for each grid cell: quarter-degree grid cells made simple. The grid cells have codes like 3420BB; the first two digits give the degrees south and the the last two digits give the degrees south and the two letters give the position of the quarter degree grid cell in the degree square. The blog makes it easier! If you want to see the location of a 3420BB and get the list of species recorded in this grid cell go to http://vmus.adu.org.za/vm_locus_map.php?vm=birdpix&locus=3420BB. The grid cell here is called a locus (Latin for “place”!). If you want to see the map and list for any other grid cell, simply replace 3420BB with the code for the grid cell you are interested in. It might need a bit of trial and error to find the grid cell that covers the place you are able to visit.

The easiest strategy is simply to upload whatever bird pictures you have available. Load them up with their coordinates (or find the place on the Google map and click on the spot). Let the computer allocates them to their correct grid cell. It does not matter at all if the species is already recorded for a grid cell. We are always wanting to “refresh” old records with more recent ones. Please consider any old photo from the digital camera era as a candidate for the Virtual Museum. You need to know the date, and be able to find the place where you took the photo on the Google map.

Fanie Rautenbach’s Great LepiMAP Challenge 2020/21

Fanie Rautenbach has worked his way through the LepiMAP records for South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland, has identified data gaps, and is challenging us to fill them. Fanie is the member of LepSoc Africa who takes the main responsibility for doing the identifications of butterflies in LepiMAP.

This blog does two things. Firstly, it lists all the species of butterfly for which we don’t have a photographic record in LepiMAP. Secondly, it lists the species for which there are photographic records in LepiMAP, but for which the most recent record was made more than five years ago, i.e. in 2014 or earlier. The Great LepiMAP Challenge for the summer of 2020/21 is to “refresh” the records for these species.

The LepiMAP database contains 477,000 records of butterflies, getting on for half a million. This is one of the largest databases of its kind in the world. For the butterfly atlas of South Africa, Lesotho and eSwatini (the SABCA project), we computerized every specimen record we could find. This included museums and private collections. This database goes back to the 19th century, although most of the records used for the butterfly atlas were made after the Second World War, in the second half of the 20th century, and from 2000 to 2010.

This blog consists of a series of four tables. Each table covers a time period. The first three tables are the 112 species that are not in LepiMAP as photographic records. The fourth table selects the 56 species that have not been “refreshed”, even once, since 2014. The column headers are mostly self-explanatory; the numbers in the column QDGC give the number of quarter degree grid cells in which the species has been recorded; the column records gives the total number of records for the species in the database. The two-letter codes are abbreviations for the provinces of South Africa, eS is eSwatini (Swaziland) and Les is Lesotho. The crosses show which of these political regions the species has been recorded in. Locality gives the general area where the species has been recorded. The numbers in the first column are in date order.

So Fanie’s first challenge to all LepiMAPpers is to get photographic records for these 168 species, and to upload them into the Virtual Museum. In the tables he has indicated the political regions they occur in, and there is a general description of the locality.

Fanie’s second challenge is to find the species in areas where they have not been recorded previously. (Many species have “traditional” sites where they get recorded, and for some species it is believed that they occur only on a single hilltop.) And then people have unexpectedly bumped into them at other sites, often at a considerable distance. Steve Woodhall’s talk at a BDI Citizen Scientist Hour called “Looking for butterflies” will help you learn how to go about doing butterfly fieldwork. And his book: “Fieldguide to Butterflies of South Africa” (reviewed here) gives the flight period for each species, so you know when to look. You can order a copy of this field guide by sending an email to Steve Woodhall.

We asked Steve to comment on this challenge: “This challenge is vital, as it carries on the great work done by LepSoc Africa and citizen scientists during the original SABCA project. Our understanding of our butterflies’ biogeography was increased immensely by SABCA, but LepiMAP record collecting for the project ended in July 2010, leading up to the publication of the Red List and Atlas in 2013. Environmental change has accelerated in the past 10 years, and we need to rise to this challenge to fill in the new gaps that Fanie has identified.”

This first table lists the 18 species for which there is not a single record in the LepiMAP database this century. The most recent record was made two decades ago. Amazingly, 12 of these 19 species are regarded as “Least Concern”. But this is due to the reality that many of them have wide ranges farther north in Africa. But it would be nice to know that the species persists at the edge of its range, in the southern end of Africa. (Because of the constraints of this format, you need to scroll out to the right to see the far ends of the tables – sorry! You can also download the tables as an Excel spreadsheet, or as a PDF)

  Family Scientific name Common name Status QDGC Rec-ords Last observed Li Mp Ga NW KZN FS NC WC EC eS Les Locality
1 LYCAENIDAE Deloneura immaculata Bashee river buff Extinct 1 2 29/12/1863                 X     Bashee River near Gwetyibeni (Fort Bowker)
2 NYMPHALIDAE Tirumala petiverana Dappled monarch, blue monarch Least Concern 2 2 26/06/1976 X                     Malta forest (Lekgalameetse NR)
3 NYMPHALIDAE Ypthima antennata antennata Clubbed ringlet Least Concern 4 21 03/02/1979 X                     Buffelsberg near Munnik (NE of Polokwane)
4 NYMPHALIDAE Stygionympha dicksoni Dickson’s hillside brown Critically Endangered 3 32 31/08/1985               X       Tygerberg, Kapokberg (Darling)
5 LYCAENIDAE Aloeides mbuluensis Mbulu’s copper Least Concern 3 30 20/11/1990         X       X     Mbulu (Transkei) Lotheni
6 NYMPHALIDAE Pseudonympha southeyi southeyi Southey’s brown Least Concern 7 53 10/11/1991                 X     Joubert’s Pass (Lady Grey), Ben MacDhui
7 HESPERIIDAE Andronymus caesar philander White dart Least Concern 4 6 16/05/1993 X X     X             Kosi Bay, Pafuri (Kruger park) Swadini resort
8 NYMPHALIDAE Charaxes druceanus solitarius Silver-barred charaxes Least Concern 1 4 19/07/1993 X                     Blouberg
9 LYCAENIDAE Thestor calviniae Dickson’s skolly Least Concern 1 46 11/11/1993             X         mear Calvinia, Hantamsberg
10 NYMPHALIDAE Coenyropsis natalii poetulodes Natal brown Data Deficient 3 27 06/03/1994 X                     Chuniespoort, Tubex (Wolkberg)
11 NYMPHALIDAE Charaxes xiphares staudei Forest-king charaxes Least Concern 1 16 14/03/1994 X                     Blouberg
12 NYMPHALIDAE Dira swanepoeli isolata Swanepoel’s widow Least Concern 1 23 12/02/1996 X                     Blouberg
13 LYCAENIDAE Thestor protumnus terblanchei Terblanche’s skolly Vulnerable 2 8 15/02/1996           X           Korannaberg
14 LYCAENIDAE Trimenia malagrida malagrida Scarce mountain copper Critically Endangered 1 120 26/02/1996               X       Lion’s Head, Twelve Apostles
15 NYMPHALIDAE Neptis serena serena Serene sailer Least Concern 5 6 10/09/1996 X                     Near Mpaphuli Cycad Reserve
16 LYCAENIDAE Chrysoritis lyncurium Tsomo river opal Vulnerable 4 84 18/12/1997                 X     Mbulu Forest, Tsomo River
17 NYMPHALIDAE Sevenia rosa Rosa’s tree nymph Least Concern 5 17 19/01/1998         X             Ngoye Forest Reserve
18 LYCAENIDAE Trimenia wykehami Wykeham’s silver-spotted copper Least Concern 8 176 11/12/1999             X X       Verlatenkloof Pass (Sutherland), Nuweveld mountains (Beaufort West)

The next table contains the 19 butterfly species that were last recorded between 2000 and 2007.

  Family Scientific name Common name Status QDGC Rec-ords Last observed Li Mp Ga NW KZN FS NC WC EC eS Les Locality
19 LYCAENIDAE Aloeides carolynnae aurata Carolynn’s copper Near Threatened 5 77 21/02/2000               X       De Hoop Nature Reserve, Still Bay
20 LYCAENIDAE Chrysoritis thysbe mithras Common opal Data Deficient 2 48 01/09/2000               X       Brenton-on-sea, Struisbaai
21 LYCAENIDAE Chrysoritis oreas Drakensberg daisy copper Near Threatened 10 197 16/10/2000         X             Bulwer Mountain, Lotheni, Bushman’s Neck”
22 LYCAENIDAE Thestor petra tempe Tempe skolly Least Concern 5 73 29/12/2000               X       Elandsberg, Seweweekspoort
23 NYMPHALIDAE Pseudonympha southeyi kamiesbergensis Southey’s brown Least Concern 5 26 03/10/2001             X         Grootvlei pass (Kamieskroon)
24 HESPERIIDAE Kedestes sarahae Sarah’s ranger Least Concern 1 13 14/10/2001               X       Cedarberg Mountains (Welbedacht)
25 LYCAENIDAE Aloeides monticola Cedarberg copper Least Concern 1 43 21/10/2001               X       Cedarberg Mountains
26 LYCAENIDAE Chrysoritis blencathrae Waaihoek opal Least Concern 2 72 21/01/2002               X       Waaihoek Mountains (Worcester)
27 LYCAENIDAE Zintha hintza krooni Hintza pierrot Least Concern 4 4 16/12/2002             X         Witsand
28 LYCAENIDAE Trimenia wallengrenii wallengrenii Wallengren’s silver-spotted copper Critically Endangered 1 21 17/11/2003               X       Kapokberg near Darling
29 NYMPHALIDAE Torynesis orangica Orange widow Least Concern 4 282 15/02/2004           X           Golden gate, Clarens
30 LYCAENIDAE Virachola dinomenes dinomenes Orange playboy Least Concern 17 240 18/06/2004         X             Hluhluwe False Bay Park
31 LYCAENIDAE Aloeides stevensoni Stevenson’s copper Endangered 2 64 06/11/2004 X                     Haenertsburg
32 LYCAENIDAE Chrysoritis adonis adonis Adonis opal Least Concern 2 186 14/11/2005               X       Gydo Mountain (Ceres)
33 NYMPHALIDAE Neita lotenia Loteni brown Least Concern 7 103 07/01/2006         X           X Bushman’s Neck, Lotheni
34 NYMPHALIDAE Torynesis pringlei Pringle’s widow Least Concern 4 42 28/01/2007                     X Rafoletsane, Sehonghong Valley
35 NYMPHALIDAE Cassionympha camdeboo Camdeboo brown Least Concern 3 35 14/11/2007                 X     Aberdeen
36 LYCAENIDAE Lepidochrysops jefferyi Jeffery’s blue Endangered 2 160 17/11/2007   X                   Barberton
37 LYCAENIDAE Lepidochrysops swanepoeli Swanepoel’s blue Endangered 2 140 17/11/2007   X                   Barberton
38 LYCAENIDAE Thestor barbatus Bearded skolly Data Deficient 1 13 15/12/2007               X       Spitskoppie (Herold)

This big table contains the 74 butterfly species which were last recorded between 2008 and 2011, and which are not in LepiMAP as photographic records.

  Family Scientific name Common name Status QDGC Rec-ords Last observed Li Mp Ga NW KZN FS NC WC EC eS Les Locality
39 LYCAENIDAE Lepidochrysops loewensteini Loewenstein’s blue Least Concern 5 56 13/01/2008                 X   X Sehonghong river valley Dulcies neck
40 LYCAENIDAE Orachrysops nasutus remus Nosy blue Least Concern 16 84 13/01/2008         X       X   X Ongeluksnek Sehonghong river valley
41 LYCAENIDAE Aloeides pringlei Pringle’s copper Least Concern 2 77 15/02/2008                 X     Groot Winterberg (Between Adelaide and Tarkastad)
42 LYCAENIDAE Anthene minima minima Little hairtail Least Concern 25 81 14/03/2008 X X     X         X   Mhlosinga Mkuse
43 NYMPHALIDAE Charaxes marieps Marieps charaxes Least Concern 1 121 29/03/2008 X X                   Mariepskop
44 LYCAENIDAE Lepidochrysops penningtoni Pennington’s blue Data Deficient 4 23 03/09/2008             X         Wolfhok
45 HESPERIIDAE Spialia agylla bamptoni Grassveld sandman Least Concern 4 43 21/09/2008             X         Hondeklip bay
46 PIERIDAE Colotis celimene pholoe Lilac tip Least Concern 3 6 27/09/2008             X         Tswalu Nature Reserve
47 LYCAENIDAE Chrysoritis turneri wykehami Wykeham’s opal Least Concern 3 78 18/10/2008             X         Hantamsberg Sutherland
48 LYCAENIDAE Chrysoritis nigricans rubescens Dark opal Least Concern 1 26 05/11/2008               X       Gamka nature reserve
49 LYCAENIDAE Chrysoritis azurius Azure opal Least Concern 11 200 21/11/2008             X         Sutherland Roggeveld escarpment
50 NYMPHALIDAE Serradinga bowkeri bella Bowker’s widow Least Concern 6 10 02/12/2008                 X     Compass berg Swaershoek Pass (Cradock)
51 LYCAENIDAE Thestor overbergensis Overberg skolly Least Concern 3 15 08/12/2008               X       De Hoop nature reserve Cape Agulhas
52 LYCAENIDAE Chloroselas mazoensis Purple gem Least Concern 17 145 21/12/2008 X X     X         X   Watervalsrivierpas (Lydenburg) Tembe Elephant park
53 NYMPHALIDAE Neita durbani D’Urban’s brown Least Concern 13 114 05/01/2009                 X     Bedford Pearston
54 LYCAENIDAE Chrysoritis thysbe schloszae Moorreesburg Common opal Critically Endangered 1 52 01/03/2009               X       Koringberg (Moorreesburg)
55 PAPILIONIDAE Papilio ophidicephalus zuluensis Emperor swallowtail Least Concern 5 110 10/03/2009         X             Nkandla Forest
56 NYMPHALIDAE Stygionympha geraldi Gerald’s hillside brown Least Concern 11 80 17/04/2009             X         Port Nolloth, Hondeklipbaai
57 LYCAENIDAE Capys penningtoni Pennington’s protea Endangered 6 330 26/09/2009         X             Bulwer mountain
58 NYMPHALIDAE Tarsocera cassus outeniqua Spring widow Least Concern 17 87 10/10/2009               X       Calitzdorp Anysberg
59 LYCAENIDAE Chrysoritis beaufortia charlesi Beaufort opal Least Concern 3 132 18/10/2009             X         Sutherland
60 LYCAENIDAE Chrysoritis violescens Violescent opal Least Concern 7 239 18/10/2009             X         Sutherland
61 LYCAENIDAE Lepidochrysops jamesi jamesi James’s blue Least Concern 6 111 18/10/2009             X         Sutherland
62 LYCAENIDAE Phasis pringlei Pringle’s arrowhead Least Concern 4 78 18/10/2009             X         Sutherland
63 LYCAENIDAE Aloeides caledoni Caledon copper Least Concern 8 27 22/10/2009               X X     Lootsberg pass Shaw’s pass
64 LYCAENIDAE Aloeides merces Wakkerstroom copper Least Concern 7 49 08/11/2009   X     X             Dirkiesdorp Mhlonganvula
65 NYMPHALIDAE Dingana alaedeus Wakkerstroom widow Near Threatened 4 74 08/11/2009   X                   Kastrolnek (Wakkerstroom)
66 LYCAENIDAE Aloeides pallida liversidgei Giant copper Least Concern 3 29 11/11/2009                 X     Baviaanskloof
67 LYCAENIDAE Chrysoritis zeuxo cottrelli Cottrell’s daisy copper Least Concern 10 76 11/11/2009               X       Gamka Nature Reserve, Millwood NR
68 LYCAENIDAE Lepidochrysops quickelbergei Quickelberge’s blue Least Concern 4 73 21/11/2009               X       Gydo Mountain (Ceres)
69 LYCAENIDAE Thestor camdeboo Camdeboo skolly Least Concern 4 48 17/12/2009                 X     Cambedoo Mountains (Aberdeen)
70 LYCAENIDAE Thestor compassbergae Compassberg skolly Least Concern 3 112 18/12/2009                 X     Compassberg (Graaf-Reinett)
71 NYMPHALIDAE Neita neita Neita brown Least Concern 18 211 27/12/2009   X     X             Watervalsrivierpas
72 LYCAENIDAE Chrysoritis daphne Daphne’s opal Least Concern 1 100 29/12/2009               X       Kammanasie mountains (Uniondale)
73 LYCAENIDAE Chrysoritis pyramus balli Ball’s opal Least Concern 3 110 29/12/2009               X       Kammanasie mountains (Uniondale)
74 LYCAENIDAE Orachrysops brinkmani Brinkman’s blue Least Concern 1 76 29/12/2009               X       Kammanasie Mountains (Uniondale)
75 NYMPHALIDAE Serradinga kammanassiensis Kammanassie widow Least Concern 2 75 29/12/2009               X       Kammanasie Mountains (Uniondale)
76 NYMPHALIDAE Pseudonympha penningtoni Pennington’s brown Least Concern 26 232 31/12/2009         X       X   X Ben McDhui, Mount-Aux-Sources, Moteng
77 NYMPHALIDAE Neptis kiriakoffi Kiriakoff’s sailer Least Concern 5 8 25/02/2010 X X     X             Mangusi, Mpaphuli Cycad Reserve, Kowyns Pas
78 NYMPHALIDAE Charaxes karkloof trimeni Karkloof charaxes Least Concern 6 44 07/03/2010               X       Gouna Forest, Hoogekraal Pass
79 LYCAENIDAE Trimenia malagrida paarlensis Scarce mountain copper Critically Endangered 1 140 13/03/2010               X       Paarl Mountain, Paardeberg
80 NYMPHALIDAE Cyrestis camillus sublineata African porcelain Least Concern 5 19 20/03/2010 X                     Pafuri
83 PIERIDAE Dixeia leucophanes Spotless black-veined white   2 6 03/09/2010 X                     Mabelikwe
84 NYMPHALIDAE Tarsocera imitator Deceptive widow Least Concern 28 147 04/09/2010             X X       Springbok Wolfhok
85 LYCAENIDAE Lepidochrysops jamesi claassensi James’s blue Least Concern 2 34 05/09/2010             X         Hantambsberg
86 LYCAENIDAE Lepidochrysops badhami Badham’s blue Least Concern 10 173 02/10/2010             X         Springbok Caroulsberg
87 LYCAENIDAE Thestor dryburghi Dryburg’s skolly Least Concern 8 135 02/10/2010             X         Arkoop (N7 north of Kammieskroon) Springbok
88 LYCAENIDAE Lepidochrysops bacchus Wineland blue Least Concern 23 158 03/10/2010               X X     Malmesbury, Coega (PE)
89 LYCAENIDAE Chrysoritis uranus schoemani Uranus opal Least Concern 6 41 09/10/2010               X       Gifberg
90 LYCAENIDAE Orachrysops regalis Royal blue Least Concern 6 48 09/10/2010 X                     Wolkberg
91 LYCAENIDAE Thestor rooibergensis Rooiberg skolly Least Concern 2 65 16/10/2010               X       Top of Rooiberg (Calitzdorp)
92 HESPERIIDAE Spialia secessus Wolkberg sandman Least Concern 10 97 06/11/2010 X X               X   Munnik, Sheba Mine
93 LYCAENIDAE Thestor pictus Langeberg skolly Least Concern 4 71 10/11/2010               X       Garcia’s Pass
94 LYCAENIDAE Aloeides pallida jonathani Giant copper Least Concern 1 93 19/11/2010               X       Kammanassie Mountains
95 LYCAENIDAE Anthene millari Millar’s hairtail Least Concern 47 220 19/11/2010 X X X X X         X   Various locations
96 LYCAENIDAE Lepidochrysops balli Ball’s blue Least Concern 2 98 19/11/2010               X       Kammanassie Mountains
97 LYCAENIDAE Deloneura millari millari Millar’s buff   21 218 21/11/2010         X       X     Makatini Flats, Emanguzi Forest
98 LYCAENIDAE Chrysoritis adonis aridimontis Adonis opal Least Concern 1 67 08/12/2010               X       Elandsberg
99 LYCAENIDAE Lepidochrysops littoralis Coastal blue Near Threatened 14 129 12/12/2010               X       Witsand Stillbay, Mosselbay
100 LYCAENIDAE Lepidochrysops victori Victor’s blue Vulnerable 2 53 20/12/2010                 X     Huntley Glen, Long hill (Queenstown)
101 LYCAENIDAE Chrysoritis penningtoni Pennington’s opal Vulnerable 6 161 21/12/2010                 X     Hogsback Mount Kubusi (Stutterheim)
102 LYCAENIDAE Orachrysops nasutus nasutus Nosy blue Least Concern 17 101 21/12/2010                 X     Lundean’s Neck (Barkley East), Gaika’s Kop
103 LYCAENIDAE Aloeides dentatis maseruna Roodepoort copper Least Concern 24 145 22/12/2010           X           Heilbron
104 LYCAENIDAE Aloeides trimeni southeyae Trimen’s copper Endangered 5 64 22/12/2010               X       Albertinia
105 LYCAENIDAE Aslauga australis Southern purple Near Threatened 10 12 22/12/2010                 X     Tsomo, Cintsa Bay
106 LYCAENIDAE Lepidochrysops oosthuizeni Oosthuizen’s blue Least Concern 17 106 23/12/2010           X     X   X Clarens Joubert’s Pass, Lundean’s Neck, Sterkspruit
107 LYCAENIDAE Lepidochrysops southeyae Southey’s blue Least Concern 15 125 23/12/2010           X     X     Sterkspruit, Tarkastad
108 LYCAENIDAE Lepidochrysops rossouwi Rossouw’s blue Least Concern 3 90 08/01/2011   X                   Stoffberg
109 LYCAENIDAE Lepidochrysops outeniqua Outeniqua blue Least Concern 5 79 19/01/2011               X X     Tsitsikama National Park, Avontuur
110 LYCAENIDAE Lepidochrysops vansoni Van Son’s blue Least Concern 12 67 12/02/2011 X X                   Loding, Kopje, Great Saltpan
111 LYCAENIDAE Trimenia malagrida maryae Scarce mountain copper Least Concern 2 110 22/02/2011               X       Near Vermaaklikheid
118 LYCAENIDAE Lepidochrysops hypopolia Morant’s blue Extinct 1 1 26/10/2011       X X             Blue bank (Ladysmith), Potchefstroom
119 LYCAENIDAE Chrysoritis felthami dukei Feltham’s opal Least Concern 28 127 29/10/2011             X X       Worcester/Robertson area, Sutherland
120 NYMPHALIDAE Dingana clara Clara’s widow Endangered 4 68 30/10/2011 X                     Wolkberg

The table below the map & photo contains 56 species for which there are photographic records in LepiMAP, but the most recent record is five or more years old, and needs to be refreshed. The map and photo below are representative of this group of species. There are 56 records in the LepiMAP database going back to 1915. They come from 25 scattered quarter degree grid cells. But this species has eluded LepiMAPpers since Vaughan Jessnitz took this photo near Hoedspruit in 2011!

The map shows 55 of the 56 records for One-pip Policeman in the LepiMAP data (there is one record flagged as unreliable and it is not shown!). The green squares show the quarter degree grid cells for the species up to 31 December 2009. The two blue crosses mark the two most recent records, made in February 2010 (LepiMAP 11454) and in March 2011, featured above (LepiMAP 31045). This species MUST surely occur in many of the “in-between” grid cells in the distribution map. Maybe it occurs in eSwatini!

For a species to qualify for the table below, it needs to have a photographic record in LepiMAP. The cut-off date for being eligible is that the most recent record in LepiMAP must have been before 31 December 2014.

  Family Scientific name Common name Status QDGC Rec-ords Last observed Li Mp Ga NW KZN FS NC WC EC eS Les Locality
112 HESPERIIDAE Pyrrhiades anchises anchises One-pip policeman Least Concern 25 56 11/03/2011 X X     X             Imfolozi Nature Reserve, Linwood forest, Klaserie private NR
113 NYMPHALIDAE Ypthima condamini condamini Condamin’s ringlet Least Concern 2 2 15/03/2011 X                     Wolkberg farm at Letaba drift
114 NYMPHALIDAE Precis antilope Darker commodore Least Concern 40 72 22/04/2011 X X X             X   Nylsvley Nature Reserve, Mlawula Nature Reserve
115 LYCAENIDAE Lepidochrysops wykehami Wykeham’s blue Least Concern 7 149 19/09/2011             X         Kamieskroon, Wolfhok
116 NYMPHALIDAE Pseudonympha trimenii nieuwveldensis Trimen’s brown Least Concern 5 68 19/09/2011               X       Molteno pass (Nuweveld mountains)
117 LYCAENIDAE Aloeides kaplani Kaplan’s copper Least Concern 13 91 20/09/2011             X X       Sutherland, Karoo National Park (Beaufort West)
121 NYMPHALIDAE Serradinga clarki ocra Clark’s widow Least Concern 2 43 04/11/2011   X                   Long Tom pass
122 LYCAENIDAE Aloeides barbarae Barbara’s copper Endangered 2 45 11/11/2011   X                   Barberton
123 LYCAENIDAE Iolaus lulua White spotted sapphire Least Concern 5 50 07/12/2011         X             Ndumu game reserve
124 NYMPHALIDAE Pseudonympha paragaika Golden Gate brown Vulnerable 5 148 02/01/2012           X           Golden gate
125 LYCAENIDAE Lepidochrysops lerothodi Lesotho blue Least Concern 16 202 21/01/2012                 X   X Mokhotlong, Blue mountain pass, Lundean’s Nek
126 NYMPHALIDAE Charaxes xiphares xiphares Forest-king charaxes Least Concern 12 98 19/03/2012               X X     Tsitsikama National Park, Saarsveld, Karatara
127 NYMPHALIDAE Charaxes xiphares bavenda Forest-king charaxes Least Concern 10 118 29/03/2012 X                     Hangklip forest, Entabeni forest
128 LYCAENIDAE Durbania limbata Natal rocksitter Least Concern 23 426 21/04/2012         X X           Balgowan, Mooirivier, Harrismith
129 LYCAENIDAE Chrysoritis beaufortia stepheni Stephen’s opal Least Concern 5 351 06/10/2012             X         Hantamsberg, Wolfhok
130 LYCAENIDAE Chrysoritis phosphor borealis Scarce scarlet Least Concern 10 75 06/10/2012   X     X             Panorama gorge, Mhlopeni Nature Reserve
131 LYCAENIDAE Aloeides simplex Dune copper Least Concern 19 139 01/11/2012             X         Witsand, Kuruman
132 NYMPHALIDAE Charaxes pondoensis Pondo charaxes Least Concern 13 159 04/01/2013         X       X     Port St. Johns, Umtamvuma reserve
133 LYCAENIDAE Alaena margaritacea Wolkberg zulu Critically Endangered 2 259 05/01/2013 X                     Wolkberg
134 LYCAENIDAE Lepidochrysops braueri Brauer’s blue Least Concern 21 153 08/01/2013               X X     Prince Alfred’s pass, Buffelsnek, Baviaanskloof
135 NYMPHALIDAE Stygionympha vansoni Van Son’s hillside brown Least Concern 17 158 24/04/2013             X         Springbok, Kamieskroon, Carolusberg
136 LYCAENIDAE Anthene talboti Talbot’s hairtail Least Concern 73 169 14/06/2013 X X X X X   X X X X   Various locations
137 LYCAENIDAE Chrysoritis lyndseyae Lyndsey’s Opal Vulnerable 1 1 25/09/2013             X         Hondeklipbaai (Wallekraal road)
138 LYCAENIDAE Orachrysops mijburghi Mijburgh’s blue Endangered 5 72 27/10/2013     X     X           Heilbron, Suikerbosrand
139 LYCAENIDAE Thestor vansoni Van Son’s skolly Least Concern 3 114 02/11/2013               X       Gydo mountain (Ceres)
140 HESPERIIDAE Platylesches dolomitica Hilltop hopper Least Concern 10 19 16/11/2013     X X               Utopia nature reserve, Hillshaven
141 LYCAENIDAE Aloeides molomo krooni Molomo copper Least Concern 13 93 18/11/2013             X         Kuruman, Witsand
142 LYCAENIDAE Trimenia wallengrenii gonnemoi Wallengren’s silver-spotted copper Vulnerable 3 32 18/11/2013               X       Piketberg
143 LYCAENIDAE Erikssonia edgei Erikson’s copper Critically Endangered 2 61 14/12/2013 X                     Bateleur nature reserve
144 LYCAENIDAE Orachrysops montanus Golden Gate blue Least Concern 3 45 18/12/2013           X           Golden gate
145 LYCAENIDAE Aloeides bamptoni Bampton’s copper Least Concern 27 172 09/01/2014             X         Springbok, Witsand, Steinkopf
146 PAPILIONIDAE Papilio ophidicephalus ayresi Emperor swallowtail Least Concern 15 138 31/01/2014   X     X         X   Mariepskop, Nongoma Ngome Forest
147 HESPERIIDAE Spialia depauperata australis Wandering sandman Least Concern 48 211 01/02/2014 X X X X X             Utopia nature reserve, Tswaing Nature Reserve
148 HESPERIIDAE Platylesches tina Small hopper Least Concern 6 13 15/02/2014 X                     Lekgalameetse Nature Reserve
149 LYCAENIDAE Chrysoritis aureus Heidelberg opal Endangered 5 215 08/03/2014   X X                 Alice Glockner Reserve
150 NYMPHALIDAE Neita extensa Savanna brown Least Concern 35 193 08/03/2014 X X                   Perdekop (Jan Trichardt pass), Verloren vallei (Dullstroom)
151 LYCAENIDAE Thestor dicksoni warreni Dickson’s skolly Data Deficient 2 45 05/04/2014               X       Graafwater
152 NYMPHALIDAE Cymothoe alcimeda marieps Battling glider Least Concern 17 143 12/04/2014   X                   Mariepskop
153 NYMPHALIDAE Torynesis mintha piquetbergensis Mintha widow Least Concern 4 123 07/05/2014               X       Hill NE of Moorreesburg
154 PIERIDAE Colotis celimene amina Lilac tip Least Concern 32 191 29/05/2014 X X X X X             Various locations
155 HESPERIIDAE Teniorhinus harona Arrowhead orange   2 2 14/06/2014 X                     Mphapuli Cycad Reserve
156 LYCAENIDAE Chrysoritis dicksoni Dickson’s Strandveld copper Critically Endangered 1 49 09/09/2014               X       Witsand
157 LYCAENIDAE Chrysoritis zonarius coetzeri Coetzer’s daisy copper Least Concern 7 96 12/09/2014             X X       Nieuwoudtville, Clanwilliam
158 NYMPHALIDAE Telchinia induna salmontana Induna acraea Endangered 7 62 13/09/2014 X                     Lajuma mountain retreat, Matshavhawe
159 LYCAENIDAE Lepidochrysops mcgregori McGregor’s blue Least Concern 4 128 19/09/2014             X         Hantam national botanical garden
160 LYCAENIDAE Chrysoritis thysbe psyche Common opal Least Concern 6 189 20/09/2014               X       Bitterfontein, Lambert’s bay
161 NYMPHALIDAE Stygionympha scotina coetzeri Eastern hillside brown Least Concern 6 11 25/09/2014 X X                   Lekgalameetse Nature Reserve
162 PIERIDAE Colotis doubledayi Desert veined tip Least Concern 6 173 25/09/2014                 X     Vioolsdrift
163 LYCAENIDAE Trimenia argyroplaga cardouwae Large silver-spotted copper Least Concern 4 34 21/11/2014               X       Dasklip pass (Porterville)
164 NYMPHALIDAE Pseudonympha swanepoeli Swanepoel’s brown Data Deficient 4 43 26/11/2014 X X                   Verlorenvallei, Houtbosberg
165 LYCAENIDAE Lepidochrysops gydoae Gydo blue Least Concern 1 87 05/12/2014               X       Gydo mountain (Ceres)
166 LYCAENIDAE Thestor petra petra Rock skolly Least Concern 4 245 05/12/2014               X       Gydo mountain (Ceres), Matroosberg
167 LYCAENIDAE Chrysoritis turneri amatola Turner’s opal Least Concern 12 97 14/12/2014                 X   X Gaika’s kop (Hogsback), Lootsberg pass, Mount Kubusie, Groot Winterberg
168 LYCAENIDAE Lepidochrysops procera Potchefstroom blue Least Concern 21 181 20/12/2014   X X X X             Badplaas, Welverdiend (Gauteng), Hillshaven (Gauteng)

These 56 species have eluded LepiMAPpers since the beginning of 2015. Let us (a) refresh them, and (b) find new localities where they occur. Ten of the species are in threat categories. Two are “Data Deficient” (we don’t have enough information to classify them into a threat category). The rest are “Least Concern” (we have no worries about the persistence into the future). The way to confirm this “Least Concern” status is to get a better understanding of their distributions, and to maintain a steady stream of records, so we are certain that they are still present.

Although this blog focuses on the southern end of Africa, LepiMAP covers the whole continent, and the offshore islands. Within a few years, it would be fantastic to have sufficient data to do a blog like this for other countries and regions of Africa.

Footnote

 The Seventh BDI Citizen Scientist Hour, on 9 September 2020, was devoted to butterflies and LepiMAP. Fanie did a presentation on the Great LepiMAP Challenge. You can watch it here:

There were two other presentations on butterflies during this Citizen Scientist Hour. Oskar Brattström’s title was Butterflies – Africa’s most exciting animals and you can watch it here:

And the third presenter was Steve Woodhall, talking about Looking for butterflies. Here it is:

The BDI Citizen Scientist Hours are Zoom events. The presentations are recorded, and are uploaded to the BDI’s YouTube channel, which is here. To find out when the next Citizen Scientist Hour will take place, go to the Facebook page of BDI Citizen Science, and search under “events”.

BDInsight – August 2020

Another month has flown by! We are heading into Spring here in the southern Hemisphere, although today feels more like Winter. It is rather chilly all over South Africa this week. It even snowed on Table Mountain!! But things are starting to heat up on the biodiversity front….

BestAugust for the Virtual Museum

The Virtual Museum had another record breaking month, with BioMAPpers uploading 8,173 records to the VM for the month.

The Virtual Museum is helping us build distribution maps, and keeping them up-to-date by refreshing old records as they get long-in-the-tooth. Ideally, it would be nice to refresh all records on an annual basis; in an era of rapid change, the fact that a species was recorded in a place a decade ago is not really good evidence that it STILL occurs there. We need to refresh records frequently (and this is especially true in the urban and suburban areas which appear to have lots of data).

West African Citizen Scientist Hour

On 27 August, we held the 6th Citizen Scientist Hour, with a focus on West Africa.
There was an awesome line up of talks for the evening:

Talatu is a Lecturer and Research Fellow at A.P. Leventis Ornithological Research Institute (APLORI) in Jos, Nigeria (https://www.aplori.org/). APLORI is the only field station dedicated to ornithological research and conservation training in West Africa. The Institute contributes directly to the knowledge infrastructure, especially in West African countries, while also providing a unique base from which to set up long-term ecological research projects.

Sam is also a Research Associate at APLORI and plays a big role in the success of the Nigerian Bird Atlas Project.

Ringim has a big passion for citizen science and nature conservation. He has been a major help starting a culture of citizen science in Nigeria and contributes to the Virtual Museum and Nigerian Bird Atlas Project on a regular basis.

You can catch up on all our previous Citizen Scientist Hours and BioBashes on our YouTube Channel.

Bringing hippos back to the Karoo

In the heart of the Karoo something wonderful is happening. Nature has been given a chance to come back to an area which used to be home to wild herds of springbok and wildebeest and even hippos and rhinos. Former farmland has been set aside and formally proclaimed as a nature reserve, the Karoo Gariep Nature Reserve.

On 23 September 1775, colonial explorers Robert Jacob Gordon and Baron Joachim Ammena van Plettenberg from Netherlands shot and killed as many as 26 hippo in one day on the Seekoei River (meaning Hippo River) that runs through the semi desert Karoo region of the Northern Cape of South Africa. A 1777 painting by RJ Gordon portrays one such hunting party in full flagrant sway. French explorer François le Vaillant writes at the end of the 18th century about how he fashioned a plate from the foot of a hapless hippo. 

230 years later, PC Ferreira, a passionate sheep farmer and the heart behind the KhoiSan Karoo Conservancy, realized the immense loss to the environment and conservation, suffered generations ago, when the last Seekoei River hippos were shot and killed in the late 1700’s. These were the last remaining hippos in the Karoo and the Northern Cape. PC decided to take action and initiated a hippo reintroduction project in 2000. It would eventually take 6 years for this project to bear fruit, but in 2006 a small breeding group of hippos were released on the then recently established Karoo Gariep Conservancy (est. 2005). Now known as KhoiSan Karoo Conservancy, which includes the formally proclaimed Karoo Gariep Nature Reserve (est 2015) and Hanover Aardvark Nature Reserve. 

For his contribution to conservation PC was awarded the SANParks Kudu Award in 2008. Over the next 14 years five hippos were born from the original group, but sadly the old bull killed all of them. The old bull died in 2017 and in 2019 we lost the cow. Only one strong and healthy, but very lonely, young bull remains and he is in desperate need of a family. We are raising funds to introduce three hippo cows and reestablish a healthy hippo family in the Seekoei River in the Karoo Gariep Nature Reserve. This hippo family will be the only hippo family in the Northern Cape. In time our goal is to establish a viable wild hippo population all along the Seekoei River, which is 300 km in length and can accommodate at least 80 hippos. Our goal is to restore the Seekoei River valley to its pristine, wild and natural state so that wildlife and humans can thrive together and prosper. Please help us by donating to this amazing cause: https://www.givengain.com/cc/the-return-of-the-karoo-hippo/