B. Gabonica in sa

Archived topics, still open for discussion.

B. Gabonica in sa

Postby adrianx » Wed Feb 24, 2010 10:00 am

The status of and some notes on the Gaboon adder Bitis gabonica in northern KwaZulu/Natal, South Africa and southern Mozambique
R. KYLE

A lot of work has been carried out on the Gaboon adder (Bitis gabonica) in KwaZulu/Natal (see Botbijl 1994a, 1994b), but the status of the snake has remained unclear.
The distribution of this snake is associated with tropical coastal forest and thickets, woodland, forest-savanna mosaic, well wooded savanna and forests (Spawls et al.2002) extending from Nigeria through central to East Africa and southwards to northern KwaZulu/Natal (Branch 1998). This distribution, especially towards the south, is very disjunct and the closest record to the north of the southern African population is from about 450 km in central Mozambique (Broadley 1983).
The snake is reported ‘rare’ in the region (Branch 1998) and is described as ‘vulnerable’ in the South African reptile red data book (Branch 1988). In South Africa, it has been reported from localities between Mtubatuba in the south and Kosi Bay in the north (Fig. 1) (Bruton 1982; Bruton & Haacke 1980; Broadley1983; Branch 1988, 1998; Spawls & Branch 1995). On the one hand, this area has been subject to large-scale forest destruction and on the other, has become part of the Greater St. Lucia World Heritage Site. Botbijl (1994b) considered B. gabonica threatened by large-scale habitat destruction as well as persistent collection. Most of the intense work focussed on the Dukuduku Forest, which is only a small part of its known range (Botbijl 1994a & 1994b.). In 1995, Ezemvelo KwaZulu/Natal Wildlife (EKZNW) approved a project to translocate as many B. gabonica as possible from Dukuduku Forest, to Umlalazi Nature Reserve, since Dukuduku Forest was under serious threat from habitat degradation. Although outside its known range, Umlalazi was considered suitable habitat and was under conservation management (Botbijl 1996). Initially the aims of the project were to capture and translocate 80 snakes (Botbijl 1994b). The translocations were initially infrequent, but increased in frequency until the project was stopped, by EKZNW (Armstrong, A., Ezemvelo KwaZulu/Natal Wildlife, PO Box 13053, Cascades, 3201pers. comm.) in 1998. By this time approximately 200 snakes had been caught, paid for and translocated. The project was terminated due to, among others, concerns about the suitability of Umlalazi, the survival of translocated snakes, and the creation of a market (at R200 each) for a rare animal. The remaining snakes in captivity were released on the eastern shores of Lake St. Lucia.
Bitis gabonica is a cryptically coloured snake that, despite its size, is extremely rarely seen, even though it is probably relatively abundant in some areas. Although it often moves off when encountered, it can bury in leaf litter or even sand (pers. obs.) with only its head exposed. Many local residents in the Kosi Bay area, who spend much of their lives in the forests, are not familiar with the species, and are surprised when informed of its presence near to their homes. Man has markedly modified much of Dukuduku Forest, the southern known locality in the distribution of B. gabonica and an area of high snake density, and snake numbers may be drastically reduced. Although 200 individuals have been released in Umlalazi Nature Reserve, no sightings of B. gabonica have been reported in the reserve subsequent to the project. There have been no confirmed reports of the snakes between Umlalazi and Dukuduku, despite large-scale dune mining operations in the area. The area north of Dukuduku, from St. Lucia to the Mozambique border, has progressively improved in conservation status over the last few decades. Almost all known sightings of B. gabonica have been made in this coastal strip. Surveying for the presence of the snake has proved particularly unsuccessful (Botbijl 1994a) and the only information available is from accidental or incidental sightings. These are clearly biased in favour of areas of high human activity. Most records were initially from Dukuduku Forest, through which a major road was cut, resulting in many snakes being killed or collected on the road. Recent habitat destruction of the forest also resulted in many encounters. Sightings have, however, also been made at virtually all the locations where conservation staff have been active between St Lucia town and the international border (Bruton & Haacke 1980; Broadley 1983; Branch 1988 & Branch 1998; Spawls & Branch 1995). Other sightings have been made on roads through the coastal strip and during alien plant eradication. There have been four sightings outside the coastal strip. In 1983, workers fencing Manguzi Forest killed an adult. Three separate sightings have been made subsequently in the garden of a Manguzi shop owner (pers. obs.). I have lived at Kosi Bay for twenty-three years and have never seen a ‘wild’ B. gabonica, and yet they have been found in the campsite less than three hundred metres from my residence. Since this species has been recorded throughout the area wherever conservation staff has been active, it seems likely that it occurs in suitable habitat throughout the coastal strip. It also seems probable that within this range, there will be areas of relative high abundance. Residents of Enkovukeni, a region on the eastern shores of Kosi Bay where there are no confirmed records, also report this species from several locations in the area. When a photograph of B. gabonica was shown to people clearing the invasive alien plant Pereskia aculeata from the area south west of Kosi Bay, they not only recognised the snake, but also reported killing one while clearing exotic vegetation. Relying on identification of snakes, particularly venomous species, by lay people is generally not dependable. In this instance, however, although young B. gabonica could be confused with puffadders, Bitis arietans, adult B. gabonica should be easily distinguished as they are much larger than B. arietans. North of the southern Mozambique border there were no known records. However, the habitat appears to be suitable and to continue uninterrupted to just south of Inhaca Island. Recently, there have been unconfirmed reports from the dive camp at Ponta do Ouro and further north (pers. obs.). As more of the coastal bush is destroyed in southern Mozambique, it is likely that further records, extending its known distribution to the north, will be made. Botbijl (1994a) suggests that B. gabonica may occur at low densities and gave the total South African population an estimated upper limit of 500. However, the 200 snakes that were caught during the translocation project, almost all from Dukuduku, suggests that population densities are much higher than Botbijl's estimations. The intrusions into and progressive destruction of Dukuduku Forest opened a window and focussed attention on B. gabonica in that area. It seems unlikely that the areas that form the peripheral of the distribution contain the majority of its animals. Recent B. gabonica sightings from St. Lucia, Cape Vidal, Manzengwenya, Sodwana Bay and Kosi Bay suggest the continued presence and breeding of the snake throughout the almost
200 km coastal strip. The report from Mozambique further suggests that the species may well extend significantly into
that country. Recent evidence, such as the May 2002 capture of a hatchling in a St. Lucia town garden (Dickson, E., Ezemvelo KwaZulu/Natal Wildlife, PO Box 1, KwaNgwanase, 3973 pers. comm.), the continued Manguzi town sightings, and two recent records from inside Sodwana Bay camp, suggest that the species shows an amazing capacity to survive unnoticed very close to human activity.
In summary, it appears that there is probably a secure, though possibly often low density, population of B. gabonica along almost the entire coastal strip from St. Lucia mouth to the Mozambique border. Attempts to ‘save’ the species in South Africa by relocating all wild specimens to Umlalazi were thus possibly misdirected and indicative of our tendency to over-manage in situations where data are lacking. Habitat destruction, unnatural fires and road kills remain important threats to the conservation status of B. gabonica, Collection for the international pet and traditional medicine trade are also likely threats. Although I do not suggest lowering the conservation status of the snake in South Africa by its removal from the ‘red data list’ (Branch 1988), I am of the opinion that previous population and range estimates seriously underestimate the distribution and abundance of this species.
Acknowledgements
I thank Ezemvelo KwaZulu/Natal Wildlife for permission to publish this paper.

References
BOTBIJL, T. 1994a. The autecology of the Gaboon adder, Bitis gabonica in Zululand. MSc. Thesis. University of Natal Pietermaritzburg.
BOTBIJL, T. 1994b. Proceedings of the Gaboon adder seminar St. Lucia, 22 April 1994. Natal Parks Board. Unpublished internal report.
BOTBIJL, T. 1996. Report on Gaboon adder habitat assessment. Natal Parks Board. Unpublished internal report. BRANCH, W.R. (ed.). 1988. South African Red Data
Book - Reptiles & Amphibians. Pretoria: Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, National Scientific Programmes Unit. (South African National Scientific Programmes report; no. 151).
BRANCH, W.R. 1998. Field Guide to Snakes and Other Reptiles of Southern Africa. Cape Town: Struik.
BROADLEY, D.G. 1983. FitzSimon's Snakes of Southern Africa. Cape Town: Delta.
BRUTON M.N. 1982. Uncommon and rare reptiles of Maputaland. African Wildlife 36 (4/5) 184-185.
BRUTON M.N. & W.D. HAACKE. 1980. The Reptiles of Maputaland. Pp 251-287. In: BRUTON, M.N. & K.H. COOPER (eds.). Studies on the Ecology of Maputaland. Rhodes University and Natal Branch of the Wildlife Society of Southern
Africa.
SPAWLS, S. & W. R. BRANCH. 1995. Dangerous Snakes of Africa. Halfway House: Southern Books.
SPAWLS, S., K. HOWELL, R. DREWES & J. ASHE. 2002. A Field Guide to the Reptiles of East Africa. London: Academic Press.
R. KYLE, P.O. Box 43, KwaNgwanase, 3973, South Africa. (Ezemvelo KwaZulu Natal Wildlife; rkyle@ iafrica.com).
If you want to run with the big dogs, don't piss like a puppy!
User avatar
adrianx
SA Reptiles Member
 
Posts: 170
Joined: Mon Mar 23, 2009 10:28 pm
Location: Parts Unknown

Re: B. Gabonica in sa

Postby Mr S » Wed Feb 24, 2010 10:29 am

Very interesting

"possibly misdirected and indicative of our tendency to over-manage in situations where data are lacking."

The best statement he made in the whole paper. Humans have the tendency to over manage, causing the unintentional demise of a spp because of it.

If you put up a fence for a game farm you have to manage to a certain degree to make sure you have artificial control over the artificial area you have created. Yes?

Why then do gaboons still manage to survive in these "artificial" areas even with misguided protection. Amazing creatures
The pied piper was a herpetologist!
User avatar
Mr S
SA Reptiles Member
 
Posts: 149
Joined: Thu Oct 08, 2009 12:33 pm

Re: B. Gabonica in sa

Postby Bushviper » Wed Feb 24, 2010 11:18 am

Well this is where the whole thing falls flat "Collection for the international pet and traditional medicine trade are also likely threats". You can get legal B. gabonica from other east African countries for the princely sum of $20 each so why would you struggle to find the last of a few hundred specimens in a place where you face possible fines or imprisonment and then try to compete with suppliers who have large numbers available at any given time.

Statements like this make you wonder if the rest being written is of any value.
It is easier to ask for forgiveness than permission.

Those who are afraid to ask are ashamed of learning.
User avatar
Bushviper
Founder Member
 
Posts: 17358
Joined: Fri Jul 15, 2005 10:02 am
Location: Pretoria

Re: B. Gabonica in sa

Postby Mr S » Wed Feb 24, 2010 11:53 am

Amen BV
The pied piper was a herpetologist!
User avatar
Mr S
SA Reptiles Member
 
Posts: 149
Joined: Thu Oct 08, 2009 12:33 pm

Re: B. Gabonica in sa

Postby Cradle of life » Wed Feb 24, 2010 11:56 am

If you know where and how to look then they are really not that rare :idea:
To fly is heavenly, but to hover is devine!!
User avatar
Cradle of life
SA Reptiles Member
 
Posts: 311
Joined: Sun Jan 31, 2010 11:13 am
Location: Any where my helicopter takes me.........

Re: B. Gabonica in sa

Postby BushSnake » Wed Feb 24, 2010 12:23 pm

Well this is where the whole thing falls flat "Collection for the international pet and traditional medicine trade are also likely threats"
I cannot see the problem in that? Any animal that has commercial value is at risk of being overexploited. Yes, you may be able to pay $20 for an East African specimen from Kenya (probably also illegally collected so ethically just as bad as getting one from SA), but you can also pay some kid R20 or R50 to bring you the snake that he finds in his back yard in Duku duku and by doing that you make a much bigger profit or save more money, and who apart from NatCon is going to complain? The snakes may not be as good as the captive bred specimens you can order from somewhere else, but it gives someone with no income money thus keeping the illegal collection process going. Just my 2c worth...

And the use of any animal in traditional medicine is disastrous, as no amount of rational arguing is going to change anything!
We must remember that a photograph can hold just as much as we put into it, and no one has ever approached the full possibilities of the medium - Ansel Adams
User avatar
BushSnake
SA Reptiles Honorary Member
 
Posts: 1678
Joined: Tue Jul 17, 2007 5:18 pm
Location: Johannesburg... and all over SA

Re: B. Gabonica in sa

Postby adrianx » Wed Feb 24, 2010 4:00 pm

The strange thing is, a lot of people said that B. Gabonica is a true rare find in KZN but I beg to differ or I guess I just got lucky...
If you want to run with the big dogs, don't piss like a puppy!
User avatar
adrianx
SA Reptiles Member
 
Posts: 170
Joined: Mon Mar 23, 2009 10:28 pm
Location: Parts Unknown

Re: B. Gabonica in sa

Postby Bushviper » Wed Feb 24, 2010 5:32 pm

Bush snake I have no doubt about the danger of traditional "medicine" or muti.

When we get to "international trade" then even if you buy the snake for R50 and try to sell it for R140 without any paperwork nobody is going to really be interested especially when you can get way more for a captive bred albino Cape house snake which would be legal. The illegal trade (or the legal trade for that matter) does not work like that.

They are rare in the same way that if you have a good day you can collect 3 Angolan dwarf pythons in a day (it has happened) or spend two months there and not find a single one. They are rare and nobody can doubt that without protection their chances of survival are pretty slim.
It is easier to ask for forgiveness than permission.

Those who are afraid to ask are ashamed of learning.
User avatar
Bushviper
Founder Member
 
Posts: 17358
Joined: Fri Jul 15, 2005 10:02 am
Location: Pretoria

Re: B. Gabonica in sa

Postby adrianx » Thu Feb 25, 2010 7:09 pm

Point being. there is no such thing as protection in St. lucia and Dukuduku!

It's been a bit more than a year since i bought a property in St. lucia and I spend a lot of time there. Ive seen guys selling bananas next to the road and if you take a closer look you will spot a gabby or a puffie in a cardboard box next to his stand.

Ironically one morning about a month ago me and my wife was watching some crocs and hippos in lake st. lucia about 1km from kzn wildlife's offices. 3 individuals from natcon was standing across the road trying to score some nookie with the local ladies, 50m away one of the locals was selling a afrock to a guy in a bmw.

Like I say, with a bunch of incompetent baboons running the show, we are all in for a very dark future...
If you want to run with the big dogs, don't piss like a puppy!
User avatar
adrianx
SA Reptiles Member
 
Posts: 170
Joined: Mon Mar 23, 2009 10:28 pm
Location: Parts Unknown

Re: B. Gabonica in sa

Postby marc bt » Thu Feb 25, 2010 7:40 pm

I was talking to one of my brother's friends the other day and he did a game ranging course at Tala game reserve. He told me that on one of their walks they came across a +-1 meter B.gabonica. I asked him if it wasn't a puffie but he said without a doubt it was a gaboon.
How true is this, i didn't know they lived that far up?
a wiseman once said:"you can give a man a fish and feed him for a day, but teach him how to fish and feed him for the rest of his life.."
User avatar
marc bt
SA Reptiles Member
 
Posts: 741
Joined: Mon Nov 10, 2008 11:53 am
Location: durban (where else!!)

Re: B. Gabonica in sa

Postby adrianx » Tue Mar 02, 2010 12:17 am

marc bt wrote:I was talking to one of my brother's friends the other day and he did a game ranging course at Tala game reserve. He told me that on one of their walks they came across a +-1 meter B.gabonica. I asked him if it wasn't a puffie but he said without a doubt it was a gaboon.
How true is this, i didn't know they lived that far up?


I doubt this, B. Gabonica as far as my knowledge goes only exists in the far northern part of kzn in South Africa that is, excluding the other countries.
If you want to run with the big dogs, don't piss like a puppy!
User avatar
adrianx
SA Reptiles Member
 
Posts: 170
Joined: Mon Mar 23, 2009 10:28 pm
Location: Parts Unknown

Re: B. Gabonica in sa

Postby Davidc » Tue Mar 06, 2012 8:07 am

Sorry to resurect a old thread but what was the SADF's involvment with the Gabboon's in Zululand years ago. I remeber hearing about a breeding program. Can anybody shed some light on this?
Ball Pythons
1-9-0 Normal
1-0-0 Spider het AXA
1-0-0 Mojave het Orange Ghost
1-0-0 Cinnamon Vanilla
1-1-0 Yellow belly
0-1-0 Axhantic
1-3-0 Pastel
0-1-0 Fire
GTP's
1-1-0
User avatar
Davidc
SA Reptiles Member
 
Posts: 146
Joined: Wed Jun 30, 2010 8:23 pm


Return to Active archive

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Google Adsense [Bot] and 1 guest

cron