We have recently had some amazing visits form the crew at Bionerds who have assisted us with learning more about the amazing animals that live around us. Their knowledge has captured our imagination and inspired us to learn more about the creatures that share our forest. In the process, we’ve developed a love for the lesser-known fishes, frogs and reptiles. In a world where bigger is normally better, it's fabulous to appreciate the tiny, magical beings that are often lost to the untrained eye. Thank you Bionerds for helping us discover them. So in the broadly, non-scientific category of the cold, slippery and slimy beings, here are our top five beauties.
5. Boomslang (commonly know as George or Elizabeth)
Yes, I know they look terrifying and they are incredibly poisonous, but they are also very shy and seldom strike. You’d need to stick a finger right into those back fangs to get a reaction. Like humans, they come in an amazing array of wonderful colours from green, yellow to black. We love their huge eyes and those pursed lips. We are slightly biased because we respectfully share our deck with them in the summer. On a quiet morning, with a coffee in hand and the birds chirping madly, there’s nothing better than watching them sunning in the warm African sun. They only emerge when spring is fully sprung so I am anxious to see them again. Thank you to the King and Queen of reptiles for allowing us peasants to lease your deck over the winter.
4. Eastern Ghost Frog
I really don’t know much about amphibians. I admit that I just recently began to understand that the broad term “frog” is actually a sub group of a larger group of tadpole-derived beings. There are ghostfrogs, reedfrogs, rainfrogs, reedfrogs, treefrogs, riverfrogs (also a whole lot of toady things) which all have very sophisticated, scientific names. But they are stunning creatures and we have a very special one in our forest that I recently met. The Eastern Cape Ghost Frog is incredibly special, but I really cannot tell you why. All I know is that, like most ghosts, they are hard to find, quite rare but always memorable.
3. Tradouw Redfin
Now I should know something about freshwater fishes because I wrote a whole darn thesis on them many moons ago. I’m told that this knowledge still lurks in the dark waters of my brain, but like the Tradouw Redfin, it is critically endangered. However, thanks to the support from the Table Mountain Fund, there is still hope for its survival. Our awesome conservancy (Grootvadersbosch Conservancy) is gearing up to launch a project to protect these little beauties that are only found in nearby rivers. I cant wait to plunge in!
2. Grootvadersbosch Dwarf Chameleon
I know that officially I cant call this guy the Grootvadersbosch Chameleon (yet) but I got away with calling a Boomslang "George" so if you still reading this, you are certainly not a purist. This chameleon is most likely distinct from its distant half-sister in Knysna and a new species still to be described. While the herpetologists are still arguing about the details, we have officially claimed it as our own and will burn down Knysna if you say otherwise (oops was it too soon?).
1. Strawberry (Hill) Rainfrog
Once again, I am taking liberties with a name. They say he’s named for the strawberry color and white touches on its belly, but I beg to differ. I’m convinced that this frog is the reason for our farm’s name. Legend has it that our farm is named because of the wild strawberries that grew here and (yes you guessed it) the fact that we are on a hill. However, I’m sure that the full truth is that my Moodie ancestors saw this guy and related to his grumpy mood. Its how I feel every morning before (and increasingly) after coffee. It is also how I feel when people call and ask me when they can come and pick strawberries on our strawberry farm. An honest mistake (I guess) and may well prompt me to change our name to Strawberryrainfrogfarm. Either way, I love this grumpy guy and I am honoured that we share a name.
A big thanks to the Bionerds team for allowing us to use these amazing images.