Recently I went to Hogsback. For those who do not know, it is a quaint little town in the middle of the Eastern Cape with little to no influence from the outside world. What this town lacks in modernity, it makes up for in biodiversity. Hogsback is home to the Cape Parrot Project and the critically endangered Amathole toad (Vandijkophrynus amatolicus).
Hogsback is lucky enough to call this species home because of its position on the Amathole mountains where biodiversity and endemism is high. Other species that can be found on the Amathole mountain range include the Hogsback chirping frog (Anhydrophryne rattrayi) and the Amatola flat gecko (Afroedura amatolica) which recently, my colleagues and I found nestled under a rock on a steep recently fire-stricken hill.
Cape Girdled Lizard
This same hill was also home to one cape skink (Trachylepis capensis) and a rather bad-tempered red-lipped herald (Crotaphopeltis hotamboeia). Earlier that day we were lucky enough to find two cape geckos, five clicking stream frogs and three short-legged seps (Tetradactylus seps) in the rubble of a dilapidated house. The haul was greatest in the afternoon, and this is a testament to the temperature which rose with the sun that very day. When we arrived at Hogsback at around 9:30 in the morning all we were greeted by was chattering teeth, quivering knees and ice -stricken cape girdled lizards (Cordylus cordylus) that lacked like the motivation to run away, even when their homes were seamlessly removed from above them.
As you can gather, our first finds were several semi-frozen Cape girdled lizards which were nestled between ice-cold rocks. Whilst they were a ‘breeze’ to photograph because of their inability to move, you couldn’t help but feel sorry for them and their lack of insulation. Whilst the day was intended as a snow day, the lack of snow made it just a day. In terms of herping however, it was a massive success with many firsts for me and the people who accompanied me on my exploits in the mystical mountains, which are thought to be the motivation for J.R.R Tolkien and his world-renowned book series, ‘The Lord of the Rings.’
Regardless of the fact that I saw neither orcs nor any Amathole toads, I am happy with what I saw and what I learnt because after all its not everyday that you see a seps, nevermind three.
Trip attended by: Chad Keates, Luke Kemp and Matthew Clarke
Published by Chad Keates