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The rains are coming.. and they are bringing the critters with them!

By Matthew Hopkins 3 years ago
Categories Limpopo and KZN

Over the past few weeks, we have had the odd downpour of rain. Unfortunately none of it has been substantial enough to keep the bush rejuvinated and green for very long. However even the smallest bit of rain does bring new life and recently we have been seeing more and more of the smaller things that appear once the rains arrive. 5 days ago, 19mm of rain was dropped on the reserve in a single morning, and since then, the appearance of insects and reptiles has nearly doubled. One of the most notable re-appearances has been the return of dung beetles. In nearly every pile of elephant or rhino dung, you can almost guarantee to see at least one dung beetle. In the height of summer (the rainy season) you can get up to 15,000 individuals in one large pile of elephant dung! Although not everyone likes insects, dung beetles are very important to the eco-system because they are one of the main decomposers in the bush. Dung beetles ensure that the dung gets spread out and then any seeds that may be left by the animal are spread to other areas and can grow in a new area. They can bury up to 1 metric tonne of dung per hectare, per year. Thats a lot of burying for such a small animal!!
Along with the dung beetles, some reptiles have also started to show up again. Leopard tortoises appear immediately when it rains and are commonly seen in the middle of the road drinking from little puddles. We are not sure where they go to, but after 2 days of there being no rain, they disappear again. Along with the tortoises, we have been seeing more and more chameleons and snakes. Chameleons are a personal favourite of mine and managing to spot one in a small Magic Guarri bush with the spotlight the other night, made my entire drive. Chameleons have many myths around them, including the local people believing that they are evil, because their eyes move independantly from one another. The locals believe that one eye can see into the future and one into the past. Obviously this is not the scientific truth but it is very interesting to hear stories about them. Chameleons are also extremely territorial, and males will fight to the death to defend a good tree or bush. Spotting these little reptiles is always a highlight of a drive. We have also started to see a lot more snakes around base and on drive, from Mozambique Spitting Cobras to Spotted Bush Snakes to African Rock Pythons. In fact a highlight of yesterdays drive was a 3 metre Python in the road!!
The rain arriving, although briefly, has rejuvinated some of the plant life. So for the time being anyway the bush is looking a lot greener and more vibrant. However unless we have more storms and rain, soon the bush will quickly deteriorate again, and we will be praying for more rain quite quickly.