5th World Congress of Herpetology


Stellenbosch & Jan Marais Nature Reserve
Western Cape Province

Map of Stellenbosch and Jan Marais Nature Reserve, Western Cape Province.
(click on map to enlarge)

Stellenbosch is a small, sleepy Western Cape Province town 5okms east of Cape Town on the banks of the Eerste River. The second oldest European settlement in the province, after Cape Town, Stellenbosch lies in a valley between several high mountains, including Stellenbosch Mountain.

Stellenbosch Mountain.

People come to Stellenbosch for the wineries, or to walk in the stunning landscape or to study at Stellenbosch University. Between 19-24th June 2005 hundreds of herpetologists from around the world, converged on the town for the Fifth World Congress of Herpetology which was taking place in the Conservatory of Music.

Our party returned from Northern Cape Province and found accomodation around the town, Bina and I settling into a colonial style guest house in a leafy suberb a short walk from the Conservatory venue. There were a few other delegates staying in the same house.

Bina and my accommodation in the Stellenbosch suberbs.

The Fifth World Congress of Herpetology took place over six days with all the symposia, workshops and seminars in the Conservatory, which meant is was easy to find colleagues quickly. The steps outside the building soon became a meeting place.

Fifth World Congress of Herpetology, Stellenbosch University.

We took time out from the lectures to do a little herping in two locations very close to the Conservatory.
The Eerste River flows under an avenue of trees on the southern suburban fringe of Stellenbosch, a few blocks walk from the conference venue and a quite walk along its town-side bank and a practised eye would often result in the sighting of a Cape dwarf chameleon (Bradypodion pumilium), motionless in the branches.

Banks of the Eerste River, Stellenbosch.
Cape dwarf chameleon, Bradypodion pumilium in trees along the Eerste River.

Cape dwarf chameleon, Bradypodion pumilium

Cape dwarf chameleon, Bradypodion pumilium


Jan Marais Nature Reserve, Stellenbosch.

To the east, and a slightly longer walk from the Conservatory, is located the Jan Marais Nature Reserve, a small preserve actually in the centre of the town with relatively busy roads on all sides, almost like a 'town park' yet it proved curiously productive from an herpetological point of view.





The only amphibian encountered was the chubby little Cape rain frog (Breviceps gibbosus).

Cape rain frog, Breviceps gibbosus


Two species of chelonians were found walking around in the reserve, the Angulate tortoise (Chersina angulata) that we had only seen previously as a road-kill in De Hoop Nature Reserve, and the ubiqitous African spur-thighed tortoise (Geochelone sulcata).

Angulate tortoise, Chersina angulata


African spur-thighed tortoise, Geochelone sulcata


Although it took some searching, several species of lizards were found within the Jan Marais Nature Reserve. Geckos found were small terrestrial species: the Marbled leaf-toed gecko (Afrogecko porphyreus) and the Ocellated thick-toed gecko (Pachydactylus geitje).

Marbled leaf-toed gecko, Afrogecko porphryreus


Ocellated thick-toed gecko, Pachydactylus geitje

Also discovered under rocks in the reserve were adult and juvenile specimens of the legless Western Cape dark skink (Acontias meleagris meleagris).

Western Cape dart skink, Acontias meleagris meleagris

The only snake found in the reserve was a Rhombic skaapsteker (Psammophylax rhombeatus rhombeatus) but a frog, two chelonians, two geckos, a burrowing skink and a colubrid snake is not a bad life-list for a few hours in the late afternoon, in a town park, after class has ended!

Rhombic skaapsteker, Psammophylax rhombeatus rhombeatus

Although no venomous snakes were uncovered, the Common brown button spider (Latrodectus geometricus), a relative of the Black widow (L.mactans) was also found in the Jan Marais Nature Reserve.

Common brown button spider, Latrodectus geometricus