Ongava Research Centre


Filming "Safari Park"

The television series "Safari Park" (Kingfisher Productions for ITV Central) followed the lives and times of employees at West Midland Safari Park and Ongava Game Reserve, and the animals in their care, over a period of several years. In Series 2 Mark O'Shea became involved and the two programmes were devoted to his work at WMSP, in "Mark O'Shea's Reptile World", and conducting the herpetofaunal survey, with ORC Director Ken Stratford, on the Ongava Game Reserve.

The film crew comprised:

Producer/Director: Susan Jones
Camera: Johan Jooste
Sound: Bobby Hasshela

Film crew.
(l-r) Bobby Haashela (sound), Mark O'Shea, Susan Jones (producer/director), Johan Jooste (camera).
Animal men.
(l-r) Stuart Crawford (OGR Reserve Manager), Bob Lawrence (Director of wildlife, WMSP), Mark O'Shea, Ken Stratford (Director of ORC).
Animal men.
Bob Lawrence and Mark O'Shea outside ORC.

The film crew arrived for a few days at the end of the survey. Ken Stratford and I had retained a collection of frogs, turtles, turtles, snakes and scorpions in readiness to show them on camera, as specimens already documented as part of the survey. The most televisual specimens were the Boomslang (Dispholidus typus), Southern African rock python (Python natalensis), and the Flap-necked chameleons (Chamaeleo dilepis), the White-throated monitor lizard (Varanus albigularis) having escaped. Based on MOS's philisophy of "no set-ups" these species were introduced as specimens captured during the survey prior to filming, and it was hoped that a few interesting species might also be located and filmed whilst the film company was present at Ongava.

Flap-necked chameleon, Chamaeleo dilepis
Southern African rock python, Python natalensis
Southern African rock python, Python natalensis
Boomslang, Dispholidus typus
Boomslang, Dispholidus typus
Boomslang, Dispholidus typus

Natural history footage of chameleons and the boomslang was obtained using the mopane tree in the ORC grounds. Others were filmed in the Cubelite.

Filming the boomslang and chameleons in the
mopane tree in the ORC grounds.
Filming the spitting cobra in the ORC grounds.

When the film crew was in Ongava we spent a deal of time searching different habitats, including the rocks behind Ongava Tented Camp in the company of Ivan Knezovich and Bob Lawrence.

Searching for skinks at Tented Camp. Ivan and Mark herping at Ongava.
Searching for scorpions and geckos.
Spotting lizards from a distance.


Searching a termite mound.
Bob and Mark in the rocks above Ongava Tented Camp.

In bright sunny weather it is impossible to use a torch or lantern to examine crevices or caves, but a heliograph is perfect for examining deep recesses.

Filming using a heliograph to search rock crevices and caves.

Fortune smiled because no only did we find a few harmless species whilst the crew were with us, ie. Namib housesnake (Boaedon fuliginosus mentalis) and Spotted bushsnake (Philothamnus semivariegatus), we managed to find and capture a Western barred spitting cobra (aka Zebra spitting cobra, Naja nigricincta) in the capture boma (location C) followed by a puff adder (Bitis arietans) near Sonop (location D).

Western barred or Zebra spitting cobra,
Naja nigricincta
in capture boma


Western barred or Zebra spitting cobra, Naja nigricincta
Demonstrating the spitting cobra to OGR game rangers.
Why you wear eye-protectors with spitting cobras.