Tag Archives: nature


Genus Xenopus

Known in the rest of the world as the African Clawed Frog, there are three kinds of Platannas found in South Africa:

  • Xenopus gilli, the Cape Platanna, which occurs only in a narrow strip along the coast from Cape Town to Cape Agulhas. It is considered to be critically endangered due to habitat loss and fragmentation of their population. Grows to about 6cm long.
  • Xenopus muelleri, the Tropical Platanna, which occurs in extreme northern Kwazulu-Natal and the Lowveld of Mpumalanga and Limpopo, extending further as far as southern Kenya. Measures around 9cm in length.
  • Xenopus laevis, the Common Platanna, found over most of South Africa and our neighbouring states. Can grow to almost 15cm in length.

Platannas are almost entirely aquatic amphibians that will only leave the water to migrate to new water bodies, which usually happens during rainy periods or when their current abode dries out (and in the latter instance they might just as easily dig themselves into the mud to aestivate until the water returns). They’re commonly found in almost every fresh water habitat, whether natural or man-made. Platannas are carnivores that feed on a wide variety of aquatic creatures ranging in size from zooplankton to fishes and even their own young. Unlike other frogs they don’t have long, sticky tongues but will use their hands and fingers to hold onto food and push it into their mouths.

Platannas breed at the start of the rainy season, when the male holds onto the back of the female – a position known as amplexus – and the couple then swims around their pond to deposit several hundred eggs singly on solid objects. The tadpoles hatch within two days and metamorphose quickly, being capable of fully transforming into adult form within 2 to 4 months of hatching depending on temperatures and food supply. Platannas are a favourite food item for many kinds of large fish, reptiles, birds and mammals but may live to 15 years old in the wild.

Between the 1930s and 1960s Platannas were used in crude but reliable pregnancy tests, as the females will start laying eggs within hours of being injected under the skin with the urine of a pregnant woman. They’re still widely used in experiments and biological studies, and this is likely the method by which they’ve become exotic invaders in many places of the world beyond their natural distribution in Sub-Saharan Africa.


Common Greenshank

Tringa nebularia

Common Greenshanks are widespread wading birds, feeding on a wide variety of invertebrates, tadpoles and small fish found along and in the shallow margins of dams and ponds, riverbanks, marshlands and swamps, lagoons, estuaries and beaches. They are usually seen alone although they might congregate in small flocks at abundant food sources.

The Common Greenshank is also a summer migrant to South Africa, being found locally in all our provinces (though very patchily in the arid Northern Cape) between August (some arrive in July already) and February. They breed in an enormous swathe of northern Europe and Asia, while their non-breeding range stretches from pockets of western Europe and most of Africa to southern Asia and Australia. The IUCN estimates a population of up to 1.5 million birds and classifies the Common Greenshank as being of least concern.

Adult birds are about 32cm long and weigh approximately 180g.





Order Laminariales

Much of the shoreline of South Africa’s Atlantic coast is dominated by a dense growth of Kelp, also known as Seaweed or Sea Bamboo, stretching from the shore up to 3km seawards at depths of up to 30m. The Kelp “forests” thrive in the cold but nutrient rich water and count among the most productive ecosystems on the planet, their benefits even extending onto dry land where washed-up Kelp is utilised as a food source by many beach-living creatures who are in turn fed on by carnivores scouring the strand.

In South African waters five species of Kelp dominate, ranging in length from 1 to 12m when fully grown. Some Kelps can grow up to 50cm per day, though this isn’t true of local species. While they appear very plant-like, Kelp is actually the largest kinds of algae on the planet, with some species growing up to 80m long!

Among the Kelp thrives an enormous variety of invertebrates and fish, many of them commercially important species like rock lobster and perlemoen, while Kelp itself is much sought after, especially in the food production, cosmetic, health and fertilizer industries. The extensive tracts of Kelp lining the shore also diminishes the power of the waves, protecting animal and bird breeding and nesting sites on the beach and even human development along the coast.

Southern Lechwe

Today, on Endangered Species Day, we feature another African mammal that isn’t indigenous to South Africa.

Kobus leche

The Southern Lechwe is one of the most water-loving antelopes in the world, living on seasonally flooded plains, in seasonal marshes and permanent wetlands and never further than a couple of kilometres from permanent water, needing to drink 2 to 3 times per day. They prefer open grassy areas and avoid dense cover. Lechwes feed on grasses (aquatic and otherwise), the fresh shoots and new leaves of reeds and to a lesser degree on other water-living plants or leaves from shrubs, and will even feed in water up to 60cm deep.

Lechwe herds, usually numbering around 3 dozen individuals but occasionally into the hundreds and even thousands, are loose associations of females and their young, moving across the territories of mature males. Rams that are unable to establish and hold territories gather in bachelor herds that occupy the fringes of the territories. Lechwes are most active in the early morning and late afternoon, resting up on high ground near the water at night and during the heat of the day. They’re great swimmers and when threatened will rush into the water to evade predators.

Lechwe ewes isolate themselves on dry ground in dense vegetation to give birth to single lambs at any time of year, though there’s a distinct peak in births during the rainy season, following a 7.5 month gestation period. The lamb remains hidden near where it was born for around 3 weeks, with the ewe returning twice a day to suckle it. Even when they’ve rejoined the herd the lambs spend more time with each other than with their mothers. Lambs wean at about 5 months of age and have a life expectancy of about 10 years in the wild. Rams are much more strongly built than the ewes, and weigh around 30kg more at 110kg. Both sexes stand around 1m high at the shoulder, the rams usually being only a few centimetres taller.

The Southern Lechwe occurs naturally only in isolated pockets of Botswana, Angola, Zambia and the DRC. The IUCN recognizes five contemporary subspecies, one of which is already extinct while the other four are all of conservation concern:

Fossil records indicate that in recent pre-history a close relative of the Southern Lechwe, the Cape Lechwe (Kobus venterae), occurred in central South Africa. Today, game farmers in this area have imported Red and Kafue Lechwe’s to their properties where they are bred mainly for hunting.


Pied Avocet

Recurvirostra avosetta

The Pied Avocet is an easily observed and unmistakable species of bird, frequenting shallow waterbodies, salt pans and temporary waterholes where it sweeps the water with its upcurved bill in search of aquatic invertebrates – brine shrimps are a particular favourite, explaining the Pied Avocet’s preference for highly mineralised water. They’re very nomadic, moving around without any apparent pattern in response to rainfall and the newly created waterbodies that follows in its wake. Some populations are also migratory, though there’s no evidence that that is true of birds found in South Africa. Pied Avocets are usually seen in small flocks.

Pied Avocets breed at any time of year, with peaks just before and just after the rainy season. They form monogamous pairs that “build” a very simple nest – usually just a scrape or hoofprint in the ground that gets lined with soft materials. Clutches of 1-4 eggs are incubated by both parents taking turns for between 3 and 4 weeks. The chicks follow their parents to water soon after they hatch and although they can fly by the time they’re 4 weeks old will stay with their parents for quite some time after. Fully grown they’re about 45cm long and weigh about 350g.

The Pied Avocet is a familiar bird over an enormous swathe of Asia, Europe and Africa and they can be found in all South Africa’s provinces, though their highest concentrations are in a band stretching from Gauteng through the Free State to the Western and Eastern Cape coast. The IUCN estimates their total global numbers at between 280,000 and 470,000 and considers the species to be of least concern.

Announcement: DeWetsWild’s portfolio grows again!


We are delighted to announce that DeWetsWild portfolio of reservation services has grown again and now includes the following luxury lodgings in some of South Africa’s best known destinations!

In Addo Elephant National Park:

  • Kuzuko Lodge

In the Bushveld:

  • ANEW Resort Hunter’s Rest
  • Clifftop Exclusive Safari Hideaway, Welgevonden Private Game Reserve
  • KwaFubesi Tented Safari Camp, Mabula Private Game Reserve
  • Mabula Game Lodge, Mabula Private Game Reserve
  • Safari Plains, Mabula Private Game Reserve

In Cape Town:

  • ANEW Hotel Green Point
  • Cape Cadogan Boutique Hotel
  • More Quarters Neighbourhood Hotel
  • Oldenburg Residence, Stellenbosch
  • The Cape Milner
  • The Commodore Hotel
  • The PortsWood Hotel

In the Drakensberg:

  • ANEW Resort Vulintaba

In Johannesburg:

  • ANEW Hotel Parktonian
  • ANEW Hotel Roodepoort
  • DaVinci Hotel & Suites
  • Raphael Penthouse Suites
  • The Leonardo
  • The Michelangelo Towers

In the Kalahari

  • Tswalu Kalahari Reserve

In the Kruger National Park:

  • Hamiltons Tented Camp
  • Hoyo Hoyo Safari Lodge
  • Imbali Safari Lodge
  • Lion Sands Narina Lodge
  • Lion Sands Tinga Lodge
  • Lukimbi Safari Lodge

In the KZN Midlands and Holiday Coast

  • ANEW Hotel Hilton
  • ANEW Hotel Ocean Reef
  • ANEW Resort Ingeli Forest

In the Lowveld:

  • ANEW Resort Hazyview
  • ANEW Resort White River
  • Angels View
  • Elephant Point
  • Kruger Park Lodge

In the Marakele National Park:

  • Marataba Safari Lodge
  • Marataba Mountain Lodge

On the Mpumalanga Highveld:

  • ANEW Hotel Highveld
  • ANEW Hotel Witbank

In Pretoria:

  • ANEW Hotel Capital
  • ANEW Hotel Centurion
  • ANEW Hotel Hatfield
  • The Centurion Hotel

In the Sabi Sand Game Reserve:

  • Idube Game Lodge
  • Lion Sands Ivory Lodge
  • Lion Sands River Lodge

In the Thornybush Game Reserve

  • Monwana Residence

In Zululand and Northern Kwazulu-Natal:

  • ANEW Hotel Hluhluwe

Don’t forget that DeWetsWild can assist you in putting together the perfect itinerary for visiting our country’s most beautiful places with stays at any of 277 destinations right across South Africa.

DeWetsWild can assist you with reservations at all these destinations! (map courtesy of mapsland.com)


Family Clinidae

The Klipfish, probably one of the most familiar fishes occurring in the rocky pools along our eastern and southern shoreline providing hours of entertainment to children trying to catch them with nets and buckets, is actually a very diverse group with 33 species occurring in South African waters and 175 different kinds altogether in the oceans around the world.

Klipfish’s cryptically coloured blotches blend in very well with the pebbles, shell shards and pieces of seaweed in their rocky homes. Their camouflage is equally useful in catching their prey – smaller fish, shrimps, crabs and worms – unawares.

Klipfish are in essence solitary fish, though several individuals may live in close proximity in the same intertidal pool. Interestingly, Klipfish females are fertilised internally after the male performed his mating ceremony, and they then give birth to live young.


Cape Hare

Lepus capensis

The Cape Hare inhabits open and dry habitats ranging from desert to grassland, requiring only a little cover in the form of clumps of tall grass or low growing shrubs in which it can hide by day. By night they feed on green grass and, to a lesser extent, the leaves and young shoots of shrubs and bushes. They do not require access to drinking water as they glean enough moisture from their food and morning dew.

Cape Hares are usually seen singly except when several males may crowd around a receptive female, which often leads to intense fighting between them. When threatened they will try to hide until the predator is almost on top of them, flushing at the last second to run away at up to 60km/h, making quick turns as they go! Cape Hares are a favourite prey of most of the larger mammalian and avian predators sharing their range, and live only about 5 years in the wild.

Female Cape Hares may give birth at any time of year following a gestation period of around 6 weeks and often have four or more litters in a year. Litters may number from 1 to 6, 2 being the norm. The leverets are able to move around shortly after birth (one of the attributes distinguishing hares from rabbits) and become independent when they’re about a month old. Fully grown they may vary in weight between 1.5 and 3kg through their range, with females in any given population being slightly heavier than the males.

In South Africa, Cape Hares are found in the dry western provinces of the country as well as in the Lowveld, extending into adjacent Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique. They’re also found in eastern and northern Africa and in Asia from Arabia to northern Pakistan. Some authorities consider the isolated southern population to be a distinct species from those occurring elsewhere in Africa and Asia. The IUCN, while considering the Cape Hare in the broad sense to be of least concern, also advises that a taxonomic review of the species is urgently required.

Kittlitz’s Plover

Charadrius pecuarius

The Kittlitz’s Plover is a familiar bird occurring throughout South Africa. It is found in open areas – such as sandy beaches with washed-up kelp, salt pans, mudflats and other flat areas with short grass, like pastures, golf courses and airfields – and usually near water. It would seem that the huge number of artificial impoundments built all over our country has assisted this species to expand its range and numbers locally. They are highly nomadic and move around the south of our continent in apparent response to rainfall. Kittlitz’s Plovers feed on insects pecked from the ground.

These little plovers breed throughout the year, forming monogamous pairs of which both members take turns to incubate the clutch of 1-3 eggs in a nest that is little more than a scrape in the ground over a 3-4 week period. The chicks leave the nest within a day of hatching to follow their parents around on foraging excursions. The chicks start to fly when they’re about a month old. Adult Kittlitz’s Plover measure only about 13cm in length and weigh around 35g. When not breeding they’re usually seen in small groups of up to 20, though much larger flocks have been reported and is probably a feature of nomadic movements.

Kittlitz’s Plover is distributed throughout sub-Saharan Africa, the Nile Valley and Madagascar, and the IUCN lists the species as being of least concern.


Cape Chestnut

Calodendrum capense

In bloom the Cape Chestnut is a beautiful tree that flourishes in montane, coastal and riverine forests, occurring patchily along Africa’s east coast from Kenya southwards to the Western Cape of South Africa. In forests it can grow to 20m tall while in gardens – where it is a very popular feature plant – it grows to only about half that height. The striking flowers are carried in early summer and is popular with butterflies, many of which – including the Citrus Swallowtail – also uses the Cape Chestnut as a fodder plant for their larvae. Primates and birds love the seeds. An oil made from the seeds is used as a skin care product, and in days past the wood was used to make wagon parts and furniture.