Small creatures

Pamushana | January 2016

There are so many interesting critters and creatures about this month.

I took the photo of this handsome male rainbow skink (Trachylepis margaritifer) sunning himself on a rock near where we were having lunch. We admired the way he had his back feet lifted in the air so as not to singe them. It’s a time of plenty for these lizards because winged termites (known as alates) take to the air in swarms after the rain to breed and set up new colonies, and the reptiles feast on them as the alates drop their wings in search of a nesting site.

The giant African land snail (Achatina fulica) provided a slow escort up to the lodge after the rains. Snails survive droughts or long dry periods by creating ‘slime tombs’ (initiallyviscous bubbles of slime) around themselves. These tombs dry out on the surface and stop dehydration on the inside. When it rains, these tombs rehydrate, beginning on the surface, and the snails crawl free. Because they’ve gone without food, they’re ravenous, and are suddenly seen everywhere looking for plants to feed on.

I caught this pair of elegant grasshoppers (Zonocerus elegans) in a less than elegant position, as they tried to mate in a protective cage of thorns. They’re a bit of a give-away given their aposematic coloration – even their antennas have alternating orange and black rings. The size of adult grasshoppers varies between 300 mm and 520 mm. Males are slightly smaller than females.