Flapper Hooktail (Paragomphus sabicus)

View the above photo record (by Desire Darling) in OdonataMAP here.

Find the Flapper Hooktail in the FBIS database (Freshwater Biodiversity Information System) here.

Family Gomphidae

Paragomphus sabicus FLAPPER HOOKTAIL


Medium-large size

Length reaches 54mm;

Paragomphus sabicus is readily identified by the combination of its yellow-green and black colouration, large black-brown foliations and elongate and hooked upper claspers.

Females are similar to the males but lack the hooked claspers and carry smaller foliations on the abdomen.

Most similar to Paragomphus cognatus, but that species is noticeably smaller and the hooked upper claspers are black-tipped and outwardly splayed.

Click here for more details on identification of the Flapper Hooktail.

Paragomphus sabicus – Male
Ndumo Game Reserve, KwaZulu-Natal
Photo by Ryan Tippett
Paragomphus sabicus – Female
Ndumo Game Reserve, KwaZulu-Natal
Photo by Ryan Tippett


A species of large, flowing savanna rivers with well wooded banks and an abundance of reeds. Frequently found in woodlands above the riverbank and away from the water.

Habitat – Ndumo Game Reserve, KwaZulu-Natal
Photo by Ryan Tippett


Most often found perched among trees and bushes above the riverbank. This species hunts from a perch, making swift flights to intercept prey before returning to settle once again. Can be fairly tame and confiding.

Most active from late November to March. See Phenology below.

Status and Conservation

Uncommon to rare and localised in South Africa. It is listed as of Least Concern in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Locally, this species is only known from undisturbed habitats.


Paragomphus sabicus is sparsely and erratically distributed. It occurs mainly in Southern and East Africa. It ranges from NE South Africa up through parts of Zimbabwe, Northern Botswana and Namibia to Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania and Kenya. It has also been recorded once from the Nile River in Sudan.

Below is a map showing the distribution of records for Flapper Hooktail in the OdonataMAP database as at February 2020.

The next map below is an imputed map, produced by an interpolation algorithm, which attempts to generate a full distribution map from the partial information in the map above. This map will be improved by the submission of records to the OdonataMAP section of the Virtual Museum.

Ultimately, we will produce a series of maps for all the odonata species in the region. The current algorithm is a new algorithm. The objective is mainly to produce “smoothed” maps that could go into a field guide for odonata. This basic version of the algorithm (as mapped above) does not make use of “explanatory variables” (e.g. altitude, terrain roughness, presence of freshwater — we will be producing maps that take these variables into account soon). Currently, it only makes use of the OdonataMAP records for the species being mapped, as well as all the other records of all other species. The basic maps are “optimistic” and will generally show ranges to be larger than what they probably are.

These maps use the data in the OdonataMAP section of the Virtual Museum, and also the database assembled by the previous JRS funded project, which was led by Professor Michael Samways and Dr KD Dijkstra.


Dragonfly Atlas: Megan Loftie-Eaton, Ryan Tippett, Rene Navarro & Les Underhill
Dragonfly Atlas: Megan Loftie-Eaton, Ryan Tippett, Rene Navarro & Les Underhill
Megan Loftie-Eaton is our communications, social media and citizen science projects coordinator. Prior to her work for the BDI, she coordinated OdonataMAP, the Atlas of African Odonata. Ryan Tippett is an enthusiastic contributor to Citizen Science and has added many important and interesting records of fauna and flora. He has been a member of the VMU since 2014 and has currently submitted over 11000 records. He is also on the expert identification panel for the OdonataMAP project. Rene Navarro is the genius behind the Virtual Museum. Prof Les Underhill has been Director of the Animal Demography Unit (ADU) at the University of Cape Town since it started in 1991. Although citizen science in biology is Les’s passion, his academic background is in mathematical statistics.