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Reptiles Archives

Rock Monitor

Rock monitor sunning itself, Mashatu Game Reserve, Botswana Rock Monitor (Varanus albigularis) or Leguaan sunning itself, Mashatu Game Reserve, Botswana.

Camera: Canon EOS 50D; Lens: Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM; Aperture: f/5.6; Shutter speed: 1/400; ISO: 400.

Safari guide Roddy Smith, in his article Monitor Lizards – Fearsome Predators on Land and Water, writes: “Monitor lizards (or leguaans) are fascinating but neglected animals, possibly because only an enthusiast would find them attractive”.

While it’s true that monitors are not attractive in the cute or cuddly sense, they do have a quite spectacular bejewelled look on closer inspection (below):

Rock monitor close-up showing bejewelled skin

Night Adder Swallowing Toad

night adder swallowing toadCaption: Rhombic Night Adder (Causus rhombeatus) has its work cut out trying to swallow a Guttural Toad (Bufo gutturalis).

Camera: Canon EOS 50D; Lens: Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM; Focal length: 300mm; Shutter speed: 1/320; Aperture: f/5.6; ISO: 800.

We found this night adder trying to devour a frog (a guttural toad, we think) on the lawn of the next-door property. When we arrived, the snake had its jaws clamped on the frog’s rear end. Then we watched its various manoeuvres until it was able to latch on to the frog’s snout and gradually draw the entire head into its jaws.

Although some will probably find the photos repulsive (they’re no worse than the one above, by the way), if you’re interested in predator and prey behavior, have a look at our Night Adder Swallowing Frog photo sequence.

Nile Monitor or water leguaan lying on rock

Caption: Nile monitor or water leguaan sunning itself on river rocks, Kruger National Park, South Africa.

Camera: Canon EOS 400D (Digital Rebel XTi); Lens: Canon EF70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM; Focal Length: 190mm; Shutter speed: 1/1600; Aperture: f/5.0; ISO: 400.

Additional Info: The Nile Monitor or Water Leguaan (Varanus niloticus) is Africa’s largest lizard, reaching lengths of up to 2m (6ft), although such sizes are more the exception than the rule.

These dragon-like reptiles are excellent swimmers, folding their legs in and using their tails like crocodiles, and can stay underwater for well over 30 minutes. Although their diet is varied, ranging from insects to small mammals, they also catch fish and are important predators of crocodile eggs.

They can’t be too stupid, as they’ve been seen using teamwork to get the eggs — one distracts the mother crocodile while others rush in to dig up the nest.

For more on these somewhat neglected reptiles, see safari guide Roddy Smith’s fascinating article, Monitor Lizards – Fearsome Predators on Land and Water.

Leopard Tortoise

Leopard tortoise crossing puddle in road
Caption: Leopard tortoise (Geochelone pardalis) making its way through a puddle while crossing the road, Kruger National Park, South Africa.

Camera: Canon EOS 400D (Digital Rebel XTi); Lens: Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM; Focal Length: 300mm; Shutter speed: 1/000; Aperture: f5.6; ISO: 400.

The leopard tortoise, the largest tortoise found in South Africa, is widely distributed through sub-Saharan Africa, particularly in semi-arid areas with thorn trees, shrubs and dry grasslands where the annual rainfall is around 100mm.

The average size of this tortoise is around 40 to 50cm (16″ to 20″) long, although they can grow up to 60cm (24″) long and weigh up to 50 kg (22lb), with an average weight around 15 kg (7lb).

The upper part of the straw-colored shell (the carapace) has a V-shaped slit in front through which the neck and head protrude. The short hind legs have four toes on each foot and the legs, head and tail can be retracted into the shell for protection. Like many other reptiles, the leopard tortoise hibernates during the cold winter months.

See also Kruger National Park Safari Pictures for a selection of images taken in Kruger. While most the images have peviously appeared on this blog, they are categorized under species, so thought it would be useful to add a separate Safari Pictures selection where photos can be viewed by location.

Black Mamba and Curious Squirrel

Black Mamba and curious squirrel
Photo Details: A young tree squirrel (Paraxerus cepapi) watches the progress of a black mamba (Dendroaspis polylepsis) as it slithers along a branch a few inches below, Mashatu Game Reserve, Tuli Block, Botswana.

Camera: Canon EOS 400D (Digital Rebel XTi); Lens: Canon EF70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM; Focal Length: 300mm; Shutter speed: 1/320; Aperture: f5.6; ISO: 400; Exposure comp: +1.

Black mamba moving along branch

Additional Info: This scenario occurred mid-way up a tree, only a few meters from the verandah of our accommodation in Mashatu Game Reserve. We watched with some trepidation, as the young squirrel seemed intent on staying put and watching the black mamba rather than taking flight.

Mambas can raise about a third of their body length off the ground and strike swiftly, so it certainly looked like the squirrel was in real danger of becoming the snake’s next meal. Then, in the blink of an eye, the squirrel had disappeared (right) and the mamba continued on its way.

It eventually slithered into a hole in the trunk of a tree right next to a path we regularly used. For the remainder of our stay, anyone walking that path did so with extreme caution. For more about the extremely venomous black mamba, arguably Africa’s most dangerous snake, see
Black Mamba Myths and Other Snake Stories.

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