BDInsight – October 2019

October has been hot hot hot, and so too is our BDI Newsletter. We have lots of exciting news and upcoming events to share with you.

Upcoming Events

  • Shoot The Dragons Week: 16-24 November 2019. Data drive for OdonataMAP in the Virtual Museum
  • BDI Citizen Science Conference: 14-16 February 2020 at the Karoo Gariep Nature Reserve, (half way between Cape Town and Johannesburg) on the N1 between Colesberg and Hanover. Details to follow soon. 14-16 February 2020 are the core dates. It will be possible to extend a couple of days earlier or later at special rates. Accommodation options will range from luxury to camping. Watch this space.

Boegoebergdam BioBash

The Northern Cape, with the exception of a few places, has a grave shortage of biodiversity data coverage, both for the bird atlas and for all the sections of the Virtual Museum. A team of eight citizen scientists turned the Boegoeberg Dam district into a knowledge hotspot over a week end-September to early-October.

Boegoeberg Dam

Citizen scientist extraordinaire Altha Liebenberg got the blessing from the owners of the Boegoeberg Dam Holiday Resort for us to use their camp site as our base for the week. Altha and Salome Willemse recruited a team of citizen scientists and coordinated the event. Salome has a great track record of organizing BioBashes, including two in Calvinia: in November last year, and in May this year. Tino Herselman, who would have loved to have been part of the team, prepared the maps that helped plan the activities for every day.

The Boegoeberg Dam was built on the Orange River in the early 1930s, the “depression years.” It provided irrigation water along 130 km of the river, all the way to the Augrabies Falls. It transformed the lives of the people living along the river. Over this entire length, there is a ribbon of green running through the desert, up to a kilometer wide in places. Lots of crops are grown, but mostly grapes and lucerne. It is a bizarre luxury to farm with an abundance of water without having any rain.

The impact of the irrigation system on biodiversity must have been massive. Superficially, it is a positive change. There are lots more birds, butterflies, dragonflies inside the irrigated areas than outside them. It was built so long ago that we have no idea of what we lost.

The bottom line is that the Boegoeberg Dam Holiday Resort provide an excellent platform for the BioBash. We would return in a flash, and fill the gaps in coverage! MSc student Karis Daniel has written a great blog on the expedition. You can read it here.

PanGoPods in the news!

PanGoPods are set to roll out across South Africa. The Tiny House movement has been spreading across the world in recent years. People have been drawn to the ‘less is more’ concept, and are downsizing their homes to embrace the philosophy and freedom a smaller space provides. This month the BDI’s PanGoPods are featured in Popular Mechanics and CapeTownEtc, follow the links to read more about our awesome eco-friendly off-grid tiny homes.

Keep an eye out for us at the Cape OutdoorX expo 7 and 8 December 2019 at Meerendal Wine Estate, Durbanville

LepiMAP – The Atlas of African Butterflies and Moths

We have some LEPI-TASTIC news! Citizen scientist Neil Thomson LepiMAPped an incredible butterfly record in Namibia while he was out bird atlasing. Neil writes: “I was actually birdmapping for SABAP2, but I kept an eye out for anything else I could find for the Virtual Museum. A butterfly landed on the ground next to my parked vehicle and I photographed it. When I looked at the photos I realized that it was a species I had never seen before but I did not anticipate that it would turn out to be a rarity!”

Linda’s Hairtail or Kalahari Kortstertjie Anthene lindae — photo by Vaughan Jessnitz

This awesome little butterfly is a Linda’s Hairtail or Kalahari Kortstertjie Anthene lindae. Neil photographed it south of Windhoek in Namibia. The only other records of Linda’s Hairtail are recorded 750 km away (as the crow flies) in the Kalahari region of South Africa. Reinier Terblanche, butterfly expert and LepSoc member, writes: “Anthene lindae, though small, is distinct and cannot be confused with anything else. On all accounts this is a spectacular record submitted by Neil. Some of these near-endemic butterflies of the Kalahari regions could be widespread but still rare and habitat specific, even it they use widespread host-plants. I would really like to get more information on these records. I have, for example, worked in areas where there are thousands of Camel Thorn Vachellia erioloba trees but still only recorded Anthene lindae in very specific places. Also, some years they appear absent, but this might be because there are not enough people looking for them in any one year”

Map showing where Neil photographed Linda’s Hairtail in Namibia in relation to the only other known records in South Africa

Nigerian Bird Atlas reaches 2000 pentads atlased!

Accurate and up-to-date knowledge of bird distributions is critical to their conservation. Therefore it is fabulous news that bird atlas coverage of Nigeria reached 2000 pentads on 15 October. Study the map (below) carefully, and see how the caterpillars are growing. The north-south caterpillar in the southeast, near the border with Cameroon, is brand new. It is 500 km long. East-west caterpillars are also nearing completion. It won’t be long before it will be possible to travel from Cameroon to Benin along atlased pentads. Awesomely well done, Team Nigeria!

OdonataMAP – The Atlas of African Dragonflies and Damselflies

The second Shoot The Dragons Week for the 2019/20 season kicked off on Saturday, 19 October 2019. OdonataMAPpers managed to snap and map a total 805 dragonfly and damselfly species from 5 African countries (Botswana, Nigeria, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania). Awesomely well done everyone. Thank you for your efforts.

Blue Basker Urothemis edwardsii

Corrie du Toit took the top spot for the Week with 129 records submitted, followed by Pieter la Grange with 124, and Phillip Nieuwoudt on 105 OdonataMAP records. Amazing stuff. Diana Russell OdonataMAPped the species in the featured photo (above), a Blue Basker Urothemis edwardsii.

The dragonfly species that was encountered most frequently during the Week was the Red-veined Dropwing Trithemis arteriosa, with 55 records uploaded to OdonataMAP in the Virtual Museum.

Virtual Museum reaches a great milestone

On 27 October 2019, the Virtual Museum reached the fantastic milestone of 500,000 records on African biodiversity submitted through the website portal at This brings the total number of records in the database to almost 2 million. This is absolutely amazing and it is all due to the efforts put in by citizen scientists! Well done BioMAPpers, and thank you. Every record submitted to the Virtual Museum is a vote for biodiversity conservation.


Megan Loftie-Eaton
Megan Loftie-Eaton
Megan is our communications, social media and citizen science coordinator. Prior to her work for the BDI, she coordinated OdonataMAP, the Atlas of African Odonata. A citizen science project run by the Animal Demography Unit, University of Cape Town and funded by the JRS Biodiversity Foundation. She also coordinated LepiMAP, which is the Atlas on African Lepidoptera. Megan is passionate about biodiversity conservation. She is a firm believer in the power of citizen science and getting the public involved in nature conservation.