Two more days until the start of Reptile Diversity in African Savannas Field Course
Bags are packed. Maps have been inspected. Field guides have been revisited. We are finally ready. The Reptile Diversity in African Savannas Field Course is upon us. Our fantastic selection of students finished their academic commitments for the year earlier this week, and now the travel to Skukuza begins. For some, like our University of Mpumalanga undergraduates, the trip is short. Our University of Venda post-grads will have a long five-hour public transport commute. For our University of the Western Cape post-grads, the journey will include two hours by air, and another five by car. But our destination is worth the struggle—it's nothing short of magical. A place where Africa’s big mammals still roam, and of course, a place with spectacular reptile diversity.
For the next two weeks, we plan to survey reptiles at a few pre-selected sites within South Africa’s world-famous Kruger National Park. The park covers more than 20 000 square kilometers of low-lying savanna habitats and is home to nearly 400 species of birds (518 species have been recorded in total), nearly 150 species of large mammals (including the Big 5 of elephants, rhino, cape buffalo, lion and leopard), and more than 120 species of reptiles. Despite this remarkable diversity, the distributions of many reptile species in Kruger are relatively poorly understood, limiting conservation biologist’s ability to effectively monitor changes in reptile communities.