BDInsight – February 2022

We have lots of exciting news to share with you this month, from the plains of the Karoo to the savannas and woodlands of Limpopo Province. And, we have some great news about the online citizen science journal Biodiversity Observations and the biomemory which is the Virtual Museum.

Karoo Research Centre

We launched the Karoo Research Centre at the beginning of February 2022 and are currently developing the fieldwork protocols that will serve as the basis of our research. We aim to create protocols with enough structure to deliver critical insights into changes in Karoo biodiversity, but which also remain straightforward and accessible for implementation by citizen scientists throughout the Karoo.

The Karoo Research Centre is a collaboration between the Khoisan Karoo Conservancy and the Biodiversity and Development Institute (BDI). The Karoo Research Centre is based at New Holme, the main accommodation lodge in the conservancy, located in the Northern Cape Province between Hanover and Colesberg and 8 km off the N1.

By good fortune, we are starting our monitoring at a peak in seasonal wetness in the Karoo. The Khoisan Karoo Conservancy has already received its normal average rainfall, the Seekoei River is flowing strongly, and the New Holme Dam has been overflowing for weeks; this region is enjoying more water than it has in decades.

Once we have obtained sufficient results to establish our credentials, the Karoo Research Centre will receive a formal launch. In the meantime, come and spend a night or two here, and experience the excitement of establishing a new initiative for yourself! We are almost exactly halfway between Gauteng and Cape Town.

One of the current projects at the Karoo Research Centre is a weekly survey of all the waterbirds on the New Holme Dam. Currently, the dam is completely full, and the perimeter is around 14 km in length. Basque interns Josu Melendez and Jon Blanco take a canoe each along the perimeter, keeping a good distance offshore so they don’t disturb the birds as they move along. It takes a bit over four hours to complete a survey.

There has been fantastic rainfall over the Karoo this summer. Our hypothesis is that the waterbirds are breeding on the myriad of ephemeral wetlands and that when these dry up the adults and their young will come to the New Holme Dam as a dry season refuge through the winter. The first survey produced a total of 479 waterbirds of 18 species, and was dominated by Egyptian Geese (216) and South African Shelduck (109). That is not a lot of birds for that huge area of dam!

To follow updates and news on the Karoo Research Centre, and all our other awesome projects, be sure to follow the BDI on InstagramFacebook and Twitter.

Daily Maverick journalist Angus Begg visited the Khoisan Karoo Conservancy a few weeks ago. Read about his experience here.

BDI Shy Five Tours

The BDI will be hosting Shy Five tours at Khoisan Karoo Conservancy near Hanover in the Northern Cape starting in March 2022. You don’t want to miss out on these awesome biodiversity tours! A great opportunity to meet the Karoo Shy Five: Aardwolf, Aardvark, Black-Footed Cat, Porcupine and Bat-eared Fox. The first tour dates coming up are 20 to 23 March and 8 to 11 April.

If you are interested please contact Megan Loftie-Eaton at or

A rough itinerary of what you can expect:

Day 1:
• During the afternoon: Arrive at New Holme
• This is home for the next three nights
• Welcome and settle in rooms
• 17h00. Sunset game drive to see hippos and buffalo
• 19h30. Dinner at New Holme lodge
• 20h30. Shy Five night drive in game vehicle, covering about 20 km, and meeting some or all of the Shy Five night mammal species – Aardwolf, Aardvark, Black Footed Cat, Porcupine and Bat-eared Fox.

Day 2:
• 06h00. Coffee and rusks. Bird ringing at the lodge; morning birding drive
• 10h00. Brunch at the lodge
• 11h30. Meet the BDI research team and get to understand the monitoring projects on the go
• 16h30. A game and birding drive, followed by sundowners and the veld braai on a hilltop
• 20h00. Karoo farm pudding at the lodge

Day 3:
• 06h00. Coffee and rusks. Bird ringing at the lodge; morning birding drive
• 10h00. Brunch at the lodge
• 11h30. Option of doing fieldwork for the monitoring projects
• 16h30. Khoi etching trip [10 km drive and a 1 km walk] with snacks
• 19h30. Dinner at the lodge
• 20h30. Shy Five night drive.

Day 4:
• 07h30. Breakfast at the lodge and departure

Virtual Museum


Andries de Vries photographed a very special dragonfly in an area where it has not been recorded before! He OdonataMAPped a Crenigomphus hartmanni Clubbed Talontail (Afr: Knoppiekloustert) near Groblersdal. Groblersdal is a farming town situated 32 km north of the Loskop Dam in the Sekhukhune District of Limpopo Province.

Crenigomphus hartmanni – Clubbed Talontail

Andries says: “The first specimen was a welcome surprise; but after preparing myself a bit better for the long grass around the dam, I returned and photographed another 5 individuals. In total 4 males and 2 females were seen within 200 meters! These will be the first photographic records to be submitted to the Virtual Museum for this Quarter Degree Sector. Another special observation was a connected pair of Mesocnemis singularis – Savanna Riverjack, another first for this locality”

Well done Andries! Thank you for your awesome support and inputs!

Quick uploads for the Virtual Museum

Need a quick way to upload records to the Virtual Museum from your cellphone? We have the solution! Take a look at: — a mobile friendly version to get your biodiversity records into the VM.

Total number of records submitted to the Virtual Museum per month per year.

For February 2022, the VM received 10,025 records! Thank you BioMAPpers!

Biodiversity Observations

During 2021 the Biodiversity Observations journal went into a little hibernation, some people might even have thought that the journal had closed. But have no fear! The journal is still here! In fact, the first new paper for 2022 has been published, titled: “First nesting records for Black Sparrowhawk Accipiter melanoleucus in the Northern Cape, South Africa” You can access the full paper here.

Biodiversity Observations is the continuation of Ornithological Observations (volumes 1 to 6), it is an e-journal published by the Biodiversity and Development Institute and hosted by the University of Cape Town Libraries.

Biodiversity Observations accepts papers containing information about biodiversity in general. This includes descriptions of distribution, behaviour, breeding, foraging, food, movement, measurements, habitat and colouration/plumage. It will also consider for publication a variety of other interesting or relevant biodiversity material: reports of projects and conferences, annotated checklists for a site or region, specialist bibliographies, book reviews and any other interesting or relevant material. Further details and guidelines to authors are on this website.

Biodiversity Observations aims to create a platform for scientists and citizen scientists to publish a variety of biodiversity related contributions as quickly as possible. The papers will not be peer-reviewed or refereed, but the Editorial Committee will ensure a high standard is maintained. We encourage dialogue and discussion, so papers reflecting on topics already published will be considered. We invite interested parties from all walks of life to submit contributions to be considered for publication. Biodiversity Observations accepts submissions from anywhere in the world.

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.