Change the world

Grysbok Environmental Education Trail

A number of reptiles and amphibians occur on the reserve. Clicking stream frogs and painted reed frogs call in large numbers at water bodies in the late afternoon and early evening. Tortoises are often seen; in the summer months – the angulate tortoise is abundant. Few venomous snakes occur, but one of them, the puff adder, is common. The spotted gecko is also widespread, sheltering in old giant land-snail shells.

Listed below are some of the species found on the trail:

Clicking Stream Frog (Strongylopus grayii)
  • Breeds well in any puddle of water that is well supplied with vegetation
  • Can even breed in brackish pools near the sea
  • As the name indicates, their call is a wooden tapping sound - repeated monotonously
Leopard Toad (Bufo pardalis)
  • One of the largest southern African toads
  • Up to 13.5 cm long, but more commonly 5 to 7.5 cm long
  • Said to make a short soft grunt, much like a drawn-out snore, audible only at about a metre away
Painted Reed Frog (Hyperolius marmoratus)
  • Quite small, growing up to 2.8 cm in length
  • Their colouration is very variable - there are several subspecies listed
  • Their call is a shrill, high pitched whistle, rapidly repeated 
  • Often seen hiding under leaves in the daytime
  • They do well in urban environments
Helmeted terrapin (Pelomedusa subrufa)
  • Seldom exceeds 30 cm in length
  • It is a very common species in freshwater pans - even in arid areas such as the Karoo 
  • Omnivorous and may even take birds (such as doves) when they come to the waters' edge
Angulate Tortoise (Chersina angulata)
  • Frequently seen on campus and on the trail
  • Grows to a maximum size of 30 cm
  • Their diet includes grasses, shrubs and succulents
  • These tortoises have a home range - males will spar ferociously when defending their territories
  • Combat involves butting and using the enlarged shell plate under the neck to overturn one another
Mountain Tortoise or Leopard Tortoise (Geochelone pardalis)
  • Largest tortoise in southern Africa
  • Can achieve lengths of 72 cm and weigh 40 kg
  • Feeds on grass, shrubs and succulents - may gnaw on bones to obtain sufficient calcium for its shell 
  • They have a large home range (1-2 square km) and will defend it vigorously
Spotted Thick-toed Gecko (Pachydactylus maculatus)
  • Small gecko, here seen hiding in the shell of a Giant African Snail (Achatina fulica; max 15-20 cm)
  • Reach a maximum length of 11 cm - several of them may crowd into a big snail shell during winter
  • Feed at night on small insects and spiders
  • They live for 3 to 4 years
Common or Rhombic Eggeater (Dasypeltis scabra)
  • A common snake known to occur throughout southern Africa - however, it is seldom seen
  • Egg eating snakes have several adaptations of the head and jaws - make it possible for them to eat eggs of up to three time the diameter of their heads 
  • Special teeth in the gullet saw through the shell as it is being swallowed, allowing the liquid part of the egg to be extracted
  • The collapsed shell is spat out
  • Only fresh eggs are eaten
Slug Eater (Duberria lutrix)
  • Common and inoffensive species
  • A great help to gardeners - it eats slugs and other garden pests
  • When alarmed it rolls into a tight spiral
  • Reaches a maximum length of 43 cm
Mole Snake (Pseudaspis cana)
  • A large (max. length 210 cm), thick snake 
  • Harmless constrictors - can be very useful in controlling the populations of mice and rats
Olive House Snake (Lamprophis inornatus)
  • Reaches a maximum length of 130 cm
  • Prefers slightly more moist habits than the Brown House Snake
  • Eats rodents and may also eat other smaller snakes
Brown House Snake (Lamprophis fuliginosus)
  • The largest of the House Snakes (max. length 150 cm)
  • Quite a handsome snake with two pale yellow streaks down the sides of the head
  • Like Mole Snakes, House Snakes will attack when provoked or handled - are easy to tame once they calm down
  • As the name suggests they were kept in, or encouraged near houses and granaries to eat rats and mice
Spotted or Rhombic Skaapsteker (Psammophylax rhombeatus)
  • Very active species of snake that will pursue its prey instead of just waiting in ambush 
  • Diet includes lizards, frogs, rodents and even other snakes
  • Females stay with the eggs and guard them by coiling around them
  • They are called Skaapstekers (sheep biters) because of the old belief that they bit sheep
Herald or Red-lipped Snake (Crotaphlopeltis hotamboeia)
  • Common name of is derived from the newspaper (The Eastern Province Herald) that first noted its presence
  • Upper lip is reddish or orange for animals in the southern part of its range
  • It will rear up and flatten its neck when provoked - causes it to be confused with cobras or vipers
  • Although its bite will bleed profusely, the venom has little effect on humans
  • Its normal prey, mainly frogs, are not so lucky and will succumb quickly once bitten
Boomslang (Dispholidus typus)
  • "Boomslang" means Tree Snake - these beautiful, shy snakes are almost always found in trees
  • One of the few snakes which has been recorded to cause a human death in southern Africa
  • A back-fanged snakes - has to "chew" the prey with fangs found at the back of the mouth
  • Most cases of human poisoning were reported by careless snake handlers - generally this snake will only bite under severe provocation 
  • It hunts during the day - its huge eyes aid vision in the shaded treetops
  • The male is shown here - females are usually light brown or olive with white to brown bellies
  • They become quite long (max. 200 cm) but remain slender
Cape Cobra (Naja nivea)
  • One of the smaller cobras in the region (max. 170 cm)
  • Several colour phases, but usually it is dark yellow or copper coloured
  • The photo shows the speckled form, which is also found here
  • The venom is highly neurotoxic - this snake is not shy and will readily rear up to attack when disturbed
  • Death usually occurs from the rapid onset of paralysis - large amounts of antivenom is required
Rhombic Night Adder (Causus rhombeatus)
  • As the name indicates, this is a nocturnal snake
  • Rests up under logs and in termitaria during the day
  • Has poor eyesight and hunts mainly by smell
  • Although this snake is poisonous, it's venom is not very potent and causes mainly pain and swelling
Puffadder (Bitus arietans)
  • A thick, heavily built snake - reaches a maximum length of 120 cm 
  • Females give live birth and can have between 20 to 40 young
  • Hunts by ambush, and is less likely to move out of the way than most other snakes
  • It hisses ominously when disturbed - hence the name "puff" adder
  • Front-fanged snake - when it strikes the fangs fold forward and inject venom into the prey on impact
  • The venom is cytotoxic and is usually deeply injected
  • About 60% of serious bites in Southern Africa are caused by Puffadders - responsible for most of the fatalities