Mahogany Presba (Syncordulia venator)

View the above photo record (by Felicity Grundlingh) in OdonataMAP here.

Find the Mahogany Presba in the FBIS database (Freshwater Biodiversity Information System) here.

Family Synthemistidae

Syncordulia venator MAHOGANY PRESBA


Medium-large Size

Length up to 50mm; Wingspan reaches 72mm.

A very distinctively coloured species. The mahogany brown body is noticeably hairy and carries obscure black lines and markings. The abdomen pattern of cream crescents and triangles, bordered with black is diagnostic. The sexes are alike.

Most likely to be mistaken for Syncordulia serendipator. Both species are predominantly dark-reddish brown, but Syncordulia serendipator is generally darker. The two species also have very differently patterned abdomens.

Click here for more details on identification of the Mahogany Presba.

Syncordulia venator – Male
Kogelberg Nature Reserve, Western Cape
Photo by Gregg Darling


Restricted to fynbos, in rugged, mountainous areas. Here it frequents rocky streams and rivers with an assortment of boulders and pools. Partial to areas where there are large bushes fringing the river.

Habitat – Mont Rochelle Nature Reserve, Western Cape
Photo by Sharon Stanton


Hunts in flight as it courses up and down a chosen route along the stream, but more likely to be encountered some distance from water, hunting over open fynbos vegetation. The flight is fast and direct. Hangs vertically from a branch or twig when perched.

Most active from from mid October to late February. See Phenology below.

Status and Conservation

This species is localised, uncommon and endemic to South Africa. It is listed as Vulnerable in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. The Mahogany Presba is intolerant towards habitat degradation and only occurs in undamaged habitats.


Syncordulia venator is endemic to South Africa, where it is restricted to the mountainous regions of the Western Cape, extending marginally into the Eastern Cape Province.

Below is a map showing the distribution of records for Mahogany Presba 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.