Great Hooktail (Paragomphus magnus)

View the above photo Record (by Wil Leurs) in OdonataMAP here.

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

Family Gomphidae

Paragomphus magnus GREAT HOOKTAIL


Large size

Length up to 58mm.

The Great Hooktail is a large and striking species. The combination of its large size, distinctive colouration and lack of foliations on the abdomen render this species unmistakable.

The sexes are similar but females lack the strongly hooked claspers of the male. Females are slightly duller, having a yellow-green and black thorax, rather than the bright green and black of the males.

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

Paragomphus magnus – Male
Pongola River, KwaZulu-Natal
Photo by Ryan Tippett
Paragomphus magnus – Female
Mkuze River, KwaZulu-Natal
Photo by Ryan Tippett


Inhabits savanna rivers of the Lowveld and Northern KwaZulu-Natal. Prefers rocky, flowing rivers with rapids and well wooded banks lined by trees and reeds.

Habitat – Mkuze River, KwaZulu-Natal
Photo by Ryan Tippett


Not much is known about the Great Hooktail. Mostly perches on trees both next to the water and in woodland above the riverbank. Often sits fairly high up. Also known to sit on the tips of reeds and sometimes on rocks near the water. Females have been observed depositing their eggs at rocky river sections with shallow, fast flowing water. It hunts from a perch and has a fast, powerful flight.

Most active from October to April. See Phenology below.

Status and Conservation

Paragomphus magnus is an uncommon and localised species. It was first recorded in South Africa as recently as 2012. It is listed as of Least Concern in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.


Very thinly distributed from northern South Africa, Zimbabwe and Mozambique up to Malawi, Tanzania and Kenya.

Below is a map showing the distribution of records for South Africa for the Great Hooktail. Taken from 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.