SOUTH AFRICA
2003


"Spitting Cobra"

St Lucia National Park, KwaZulu-Natal

 

The KwaZulu-Natal Game Parks and Reserves
visited during filming.

Greater St Lucia National Park is now known as iSimangaliso Wetland Park. It is the third largest protected area in S.Africa, a World Heritage Site, and it includes Mkuze and St Lucia Game Reserves, the Sodwana National Park and large tracts of offshore coastline habitats.

St Lucia is reportedly home to 1,200 Nile crocodiles (Crocodylus niloticus) and 800 Hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius).

 

Nile crocodile, Crocodylus niloticus

 

We visited St Lucia National Park via Hell's Gate, the South African Defence Force (SADF) training camp on a peninsular that extends into St Lucia lagoon, where we were based for a while, searching the area for herps.

 

Hell's Gate SADF Training camp, St Lucia National Park

Hell's Gate had a diverse mammal fauna too. there were semi-tame Warthogs (Phacochoerus africanus) on the camp, I caught a South African porcupine (Hystrix afriaceaustralis) under one of the military vehicles and we encountered Nyala (Tragelaphis angasi) on the airstrip at night.

Feeding apples to Warthogs,
Phacochoerus africanus
, at Hell's Gate.

 

Lagoon shoreline, St Lucia National Park.
Coastal dune habitat, St Lucia National Park.
Looking towards the Umbombo Mts.,
St Lucia National Park.

 

Mark shooting habitat shots in St Lucia National Park.

 

Chacma baboon, Papio ursinus,
St Lucia National Park.

 

Herping was very productive, we found the Bushveldt rainfrog (Breviceps adspersus), Eastern coastal skink (Trachylepis depressa), Southern tree agama (Acanthocercus atricollis atricollis) and Flap-necked chameleon (Chamaeleo dilepis).

 

FROGS & LIZARDS from HELL'S GATE
Bushveldt rainfrog, Breviceps adspersus
Eastern coastal skink, Trachylepis depressa
Southern tree agama, Acanthocercus atricollis atricollis, male.
Flap-necked chameleon, Chamaeleo dilepis

We also did well for snakes: Cape housesnake (Lamprophis capensis), Spotted bushsnake (Philothamnus semivariegatus semivariegatus), Green watersnake (Philothamnus hoplogaster) and Cape filesnake (Mehelya capensis capensis).

 

SNAKES from HELL'S GATE
Cape housesnake, Lamprophis capensis
Spotted bushsnake, Philothamnus semivariegatus semivariegatus
Green watersnake, Philothamnus hoplogaster
Cape filesnake, Mehelya capensis capensis

 

Testing out the Midwest mamba tongs,
but no mambas showed!

One species I had hoped to find in the trees along the shores of St Lucia was the Eastern green mamba (Dendroaspis angusticeps), an East African species that enters South Africa from Mozambique, only down the coastline of KwaZulu-Natal, south of the Lebombo Mountains through the St Lucia National Park. Despite extensive searching, with a pair of Midwest tongs I had built for the purpose, I failed to find a single mamba.

There is another important snake species in the St Lucia region, a species with a range more limited in S.African than even the green mamba, a species which also just enters the country in northern KwaZulu-Natal - the East African gaboon viper (Bitis gabonica), known as the gaboon adder in S.Africa.

We had arranged to meet up with Mtubatuba-based herpetologist Barry Stander who had an important conservation project under his wing, releasing rescued gaboon vipers back into the wild. He kept his protected vipers on the SADF base near Hell's Gate for security and we joined him and two Natal Parks Board wardens to release two adults back into the wild in a remote batch of woodland in the national park.

Finding snakes in the wild is always a thrill, and one many people envy me for, but so is the opposite side of the coin, releasing them again. Putting these two large vipers back where they belonged was one of the highlights of my visit to South Africa in 2003.

 

Woodland habitat where we released the gaboon vipers, St Lucia National Park.

 

Barry Stander and Mark with one of the gaboon vipers due for release in
St Lucia National Park.

 

 

East African gaboon vipers, Bitis gabonica, from Mtubatuba