Reptiles are some of the most amazing animals to see in South Africa and depending on the time of year that your programme takes place you will either have a lot of sighting or a few.
Below you will find information on a few of the reptiles you may encounter during your programme in Africa as well as links to other sites such as Wikipedia, AWF, WWF and ICUN for more information should you require it.
THE NILE CROCODILE (CROCODYLUS NILOTICUS)
Conservation Status: Least Concern
The Nile Crocodile may live for 70 – 100 years. It’s brain and heart are much more advanced than that of other living reptiles and they have little changed in the last 65 million years. They swim using their tale to propel them through the water and they have a ‘high walk’ when on land. Their hind feet are webbed and can be used if they need to submerge quickly. An adult Nile Crocodile can weigh 2,000 pounds and Nile Crocodiles’ of up to 21 feet have been recorded.Bull crocodiles defend their territories during breeding season by roaring and constantly patrolling the borders. After mating which occurs in the water, the female digs a hole in soft soil, lays about 50 eggs and covers them with soil. Then she stands guard for three months, never leaving to eat, while the eggs develop in the underground nest.Their diet varies with age. The juveniles eat spiders, frogs, insects, snakes, lizards and other small vertebrates. Fish make up a substantial part of the diets of older offspring and adults. Larger, mature Nile crocodiles capture zebras, antelope, wart hogs, large domestic animals and human beings. Crocodiles grab the large mammals at the edge of the water and drag them underwater and drown them.
THE ROCK PYTHON (PYTHON SEBAE)
The African Rock Python is the largest of all snake species on the African continent. Large adults, especially females measure between 4 and 5 meters. Larger specimens of 7 and 8 meters have been recorded.
African Rock Pythons are often found near water in savannah, grassland as well as rocky outcrops. Their preferred retreats are under piles of driftwood and inside old termite mounds and abandoned aardvark burrows.
Rock Pythons will eat mammals such as small to medium sized antelope, dassies (hyrax), rodents, hares, monkeys, monitor lizards, crocodiles and occasionally fish are eaten.
During the summer months the female lays between 20 and 60 eggs in a termite mound or aardvark burrow. Large pythons can lay as many as 100 eggs.
The female remains with her eggs for the 2 to 3 month incubation period. During this period she will not feed but will leave on occasion to drink.
On warm days she will often bask in the sun and then use the absorbed heat to help incubate the eggs by coiling around them. By constantly twitching her body she also generates heat to help raise the temperature of the eggs.
THE VARIABLE SKINK (TRACHYLEPIS VARIA)
Approximately 50 – 60 mm long this is a medium sized skink with a rounded snout. It’s colour varies, the back may be blackish, olive, pale brown or red-brown, with or without black spots. There’s always a distinct white lateral stripe down the backbone and on the upper sides. The belly is bluish white.
Females lay 6-12 eggs which hatch after a 2 month incubation period. Growth is rapid and both sexes reach maturity in only 8 months.
Skinks will eat grasshoppers, caterpillars and termites, spiders and, in exceptional cases, other lizards.
MONITOR LIZARD (VARANUS ALBIGULARIS)
Monitor lizards will lay from 7-37 eggs in a nest which are generally constructed inside a hollow tree stump and covered in soil for protection and heat regulation.
Monitors are large lizards growing to approximately 2 meters and have long necks and very strong jaws, legs, tails and claws.
It is said that this lizards name came from a certain behaviour where they will sit up on their hind legs and ‘monitor’ their surroundings.
Monitor lizards will eat almost anything that they are capable of overpowering from frogs and insects to small and large rodents.