Tag Archives: Midlands

Midland’s Dwarf Chameleon

Midland’s Dwarf Chameleon – Bradypodion thamnobates

– By Nick Evans –

The Midlands is home to a vast array of amazing animals, including many species of reptiles and amphibians. One of the most striking and beautiful of the lot is the Midland’s Dwarf Chameleon (Bradypodion thamnobates).


Photographed in Howick by Nick Evans

This gorgeous, colourful chameleon is one of many species of dwarf chameleons of the genus Bradypodion. It is actually quite large for a supposedly dwarf chameleon, and can get to a length of around 20cm (including the tail)!

Chameleons, usually, are popular amongst people and most people adore them! How can you not? They’re very cute and loveable animals, with an interesting persona. People are generally often fascinated by their many interesting features. It’s usually the oven mitt- like ‘hands and feet’ and the way they move about, or the constantly rotating eyes, that people find most interesting.


Photographed in Nottingham Road by Nick Evans

The way chameleons hunt is truly amazing. They move slowly through the bush, blending in with their environment very well, and move like a stick in the wind, with the eyes constantly scanning for food or threats around them. They also use their long, prehensile tail for balance. In fact they can even hang off branches while clinging to it using just the tail! Once they have spotted a tasty grasshopper, both eyes focus on the insect, and it then shoots its long, sticky tongue out which hits the insect, and acts like a suction cup. It’s an incredible sight to behold! That tongue of theirs can be as long, or even longer than their body!

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Photographed in Nottingham Road by Nick Evans

Chameleons exhibit interesting behaviour. Did you know:

  • Chameleons don’t generally climb down to a pond/stream to drink. They actually drink dew or rain drops off the leaves of the shrubs that they’re on.
  • Chameleons cannot shed their tails like a gecko.
  • Like all reptiles, chameleons shed their skin. Most reptiles just leave their skin to peel off, but the chameleon will eat its shed skin! This is to supply their diet with calcium.
  • Chameleons are famous for changing colour, but this is partially a myth. If you put a chameleon on a red/blue/purple or any colour clothing, contrary to popular belief, it won’t change to that colour. Their natural colour allows them to blend in to the environment already. However, a chameleon’s colour can change to lighter or darker shades. So, for example, if a chameleon is stressed, it will become very dark.
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Photographed in Howick by Nick Evans

The Midland’s Dwarf Chameleon is currently listed as Vulnerable, but it is locally common in some parts of the Midlands. The reason why it is listed as Vulnerable, is due to habitat loss, which is an ongoing problem. Please remembers that Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA’s)  are not optional, as they are required only for certain listed activities.

We consulted Gareth Mauck at Hogarty Attorneys who informed us: “According to the National Environmental Management Act’s EIA regulations (2014), certain listed activities will be subject to an EIA. There are two streams of EIA. The first and least onerous is the Basic Assessment (BA). BA is required where environmental impacts are not likely to be significant (generally listing notice 1). The second more onerous process is the Scoping and Environmental Impact Assessment – This more onerous procedure is required where the activities fall under listing notice 2 and 3 and are generally significant environmental impacts.”

You can download the following documents:

Midland’s Dwarf Chameleons are also popular pets, especially overseas where they are commonly bred. These slow and crinkly friends are often collected by kids or people that think it’s a ‘cool’ animal to keep. Rather don’t do this, they are not easy animals to keep and are best left in the wild.


Photographed in Rosetta by Nick Evans


Consider yourself lucky should you find one of these remarkable reptiles in your garden. If you want to encourage them to your garden, plant indigenous plant species which will attract chameleon food! Don’t use pesticides, the chameleons will do that job for you!
The Midlands Dwarf Chameleon is definitely one of the gems of the area!

To find out what Nick does, you can visit his website: www.kznamphibianreptileconservation.com

The Chairmans’ Walk

Adrian Wilson, Chairman of Rosetta Nottingham Road Conservancy and Roy Tabernor, Chairman of Lions Bush Conservancy, recently undertook an experimental cross country walk from Nottingham Road to Fort Nottingham. This was, of course, with the permission of the relevant land owners. Adrian took the pictures and wrote this account.

A large part of the route was along the impressive ridge that runs between the two villages and ends in the newly proclaimed nature reserve at Fort Nottingham commonage, before the steep descent to Fort Nottingham.

fort notts view

Long shadows in the early morning, along with impossibly blue sky, impossibly green grass and impossibly blue dam.

long shadows

The route involved a number of fairly stiff climbs but the views from on top of the ridge were spectacular.

intrepid Roy setting a stiff pace up a steep climb

Springrove Dam and the Loteni Road on one side

springgrove dam

and the Dargle Valley, looking towards uMngeni Vlei,  on the other.

looking over Dargle to uMngeni vlei

Also interesting is the fact that this ridge is located on the catchment boundary between the Mooi and Umgeni Rivers.  At the top of a steep climb, looking back towards Nottingham Road.

looking back towards Nottingham Road

We admired the profusion of stunning wild flowers along the route, including Watsonia,

profusion of wildflowers

Cyanotis speciosa

cyanotis speciosa

Jamebritennia breviflora

jamesbritennia breviflora

Scilla nervosa

scilla nervosa

and lots of bracken with yellow Helichrysum in flower.

yellow bracken like plant

Might this be a Magic Mushroom?

magic mushroom

We surprised a yellow billed duck, and came upon her nest half way up a hill.

Nest of a yellow billed duck

Indigenous bush just below the summit of the ridge.

Indigenous bush just below the summit of the ridge

Strange stone structures on the commonage reminiscent of primitive man.

Strange stone structures

The walk took roughly 5 to 6 hours. At the end, Roy and Adrian, overlooking Fort Nottingham village speculated on whether there would be a broader interest in such cross country walks in the beautiful Natal Midlands under the banner of ‘The Chairmans’ Walk’. There must be endless possibilities.

Bird’s eye view of Fort Nottingham


Mad About Chameleons

What is slow, green and kind of crinkly? A Midlands Dwarf Chameleon, of course! Chameleons, unwabu, verkleurmannetjies, usihlalo, trap-trappies – intriguing little critters, aren’t they?

Dieter Setz - chameleon

Midlands Dwarf Chameleon by Dieter Setz

Many chameleon species are endangered due to loss of habitat and the international pet trade. By conserving forests and woodlands, and protecting the grasslands that they need to survive in nature, we contribute to the health of entire ecosystems.

You can help do this with a donation to the Midlands Conservancies Forum which is working to safeguard biodiversity in the KZN Midlands. Instead of fighting crowds in the malls, do a little shopping in the slow lane. A Mad-About-Chameleons gift certificate is just the thing for someone who cares about forest creatures. Instead of actual wrapped presents for family and friends, give them a chance to contribute to the amazing planet we share with chameleons. R100 gets you an earth friendly Mad-About-Chameleons e-card sure to enchant the recipient.

No postage, no packaging, no Made in China sticker.  It’s as green a gift as you can get!

MAD CERTIFICATE christmas web

  • Let chameleons@midlandsconservancies.org.za know to whom you’d like to send a Mad-About-Chameleons gift certificate.
  • Make your R100 donation through the MCF page on GivenGain or by EFT
  • We will email an e-card to the recipient, as quickly as we can.
  • We can do slow, traditional, chameleon mail too if you prefer.

Merry Crinkly Christmas!

Summer in the Mist

In the great African tradition of auspicious rain for special occasions, the Midlands Summer Celebration last week was suitably wet.  The Cairn of Old Kilgobbin Farm is right in the mist-belt, beside the forest, a wonderful venue whatever the weather.

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The drizzle did little to dampen the spirits of those who headed off on a forest walk.

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Barend Booysen greeted everyone in his usual charming forest-side manner. Sharing a little history of the area and explaining why the forest is called ‘mist-belt’ (even though it was pretty obvious!)

r Tutu Barend Penz laughing

The rain hardly penetrates the canopy, so there was no rush to get back.

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A gentle afternoon spent smelling Clausena anisata leaves, collecting yellowwood seeds, hugging the really big trees and puzzling over some species.  Dineo Dibakwane of SANBI commented: “I enjoyed the walk, Barend is the best! It was nice meeting other people who share the same objectives regarding conserving our planet.”

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Other guests began arriving, settling down beside the fire and wondering where the forest walkers were.  They were obviously enjoying themselves, despite the drizzle. Jessica Dreamtime of the MMAEP said “I’ve never given much thought to networking but I saw and felt its power on Friday.”

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Then they emerged through the mist, and were welcomed warmly. Tshepiso Mafole, SANBI said  “It was great to be part of the inspiring and refreshing world of conservationists.”

r mcf celebration 2014 group mist

The red wine went down particularly well, but there was also plenty of Notties beer and homemade lemon and mint cordial too.

r mcf celebration 2014 jiba

Many Midlands Conservancies were represented at the gathering and lots of local environmental organisations too.  Janet Snow of Environmental Learning and Teaching observed: “It was inspirational to see the projects conducted with such enthusiasm. It is a true indication of the community of practice in the area – something to be proud of.”

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Hugh Temple of World’s View Conservancy, especially enjoyed the fireside conversations “What a wonderful afternoon.”  he said smiling broadly.  Tutu Zuma of Mpophomeni Conservation Group thought that the best part was the walk in the forest. “An enjoyable networking and learning day.” she said, Nkanyiso Ndlela of KZN Crane Foundation, echoed her thoughts.

r mcf celebration 2014 gugu ayanda tutu nka

Everyone tucked into yummy food that The Farmer’s Daughter had made – split pea and asparagus salad, roasted sweet potatoes and butternut in balsamic reduction; and tomatoes, pesto and cream cheese.  There were hand made relishes, a selection of just baked breads, fresh organic greens, local cheeses and fruit too. Kevan, Karen and Hannah Zunckel thoroughly enjoyed themselves “What a wonderful afternoon with a lot of special people.”  

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Then Judy Bell, Chair of MCF thanked everyone for coming and especially, for all the work that volunteers do to protect the Midlands ‘water factories’ – the ecosystems on which we all rely.  Judy acknowledged Barend Booysen’s incredible contribution to inspiring, motivating and challenging so many people with his walks and insightful discussions along the way and presented him with a Mad About Chameleons certificate to thank him.

r mcf celebration 2014 judy eidin

Eidin Griffin of the MMAEP also thanked Barend for his kindness and generosity in leading two school groups recently and introducing them to the Kilgobbin Forest magic, saying “The children  wrote about their experiences and all of them had an amazing and inspiring time.”  She read a few of the children’s delightful comments from the Eco-Schools portfolio they have compiled.

r mcf celebration 2014 barendJPG

Local press gives environmental stories lots of coverage so we were thrilled that the Meander Chronicle and Village Talk joined us too. Phillippa Gordon editor of the Meander Chronicle said “Thanks for a fab interlude on Friday.  As usual – great people, great venue and a sparkly spirit giving it kick!”

r mcf celebration phil mfundo nkulu

Judy concludes “It was a wonderful opportunity to talk to people, to hear their tribulations and successes and, especially nice to be able to welcome the newly formed Rosetta Nottingham Road Conservancy. Everyone works so hard, so it is good to have an opportunity to just relax and celebrate our efforts. Thanks to Dargle Conservancy for sponsoring the food to go with our drinks and everyone for participating with such enthusiasm.”  Long may the Summer Rains last. 

r mcf celebration 2014 penny adrian hugh

See more photos of the celebrations on these Facebook pages:


Celebrating Midlands’ Summer

Members and friends of the MCF gathered at the Bill Barnes Crane and Oribi Reserve on Friday to celebrate all that is good about living in the Midlands.

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It was lovely to spend relaxed time with our partners in conservation, sustainability and education. Hugh Temple said “It was great to exchange views
and ideas (and stories) with like-minded people.”

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It also provided an opportunity to explore the almost complete Wattled Crane Nursery on the edge of the dam.

wattled crane nursery

Judy Bell commented “It was great to create positive energy and have people talking to each other in a beautiful setting.”

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The refreshments were suitably ‘midlands’, with wine from the Wine Cellar in Rosetta (with contribution to KZN Crane Foundation funds),

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which went down a treat in the late afternoon sun.

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Peter and Cheryth Thomson enjoyed themselves “Thank you for a thoroughly lovely afternoon/evening. We enjoyed the special food, the good booze, the sense of place and, especially, the positive company.  We think the Midlands Conservation Forum is showing the way and were pleased to hear that a similar forum is coming about along the Drakensberg and that the KZN Conservancies Association is in full support. With all the governance problems facing conservation in KZN and in the country it is really encouraging to get together with people who are so enthusiastic about what they are doing.”

Café Bloom put on a splendid spread.

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Mostly organic and definitely all local.

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Phillippa Gordon was in heaven, “My absolute favourite food from the best restaurant in the Midlands.” she pronounced.

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“What great food. I had ngolwesihlana. mmmm.” added Nkululeko Mdladla

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Draft beer from Notties Brewery had everyone trying their hand at being barmaid.  A trio of cordials – Mint, Elderflower and Lemon were served with plenty of ice.

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“We feel privileged to have been invited along on Friday. It was such a lovely afternoon with friends just chilling and catching up. We have been inspired to try recreate the gorgeous food here at home. The girls had such fun in their own ways too.”  Kevan, Karen, Hannah and Jessie Zunckel

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Conversations were varied, and always interesting

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light hearted as friends caught up

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or intense as funding strategies were discussed.

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Kids had a ball,

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“Thank you so much for organizing such a lovely evening – everyone loved it and the food was the best!”  said Ann Burke

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The MCF aims to Inspire, Motivate and Challenge.  What better way than with a low-carbon meal surrounded by iconic Midlands grassland and really interesting people?

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As the sun set across the hills, the fire was lit. Here’s to renewed passion and commitment to protecting our eco-systems and living less harmful lifestyles.  “The afternoon was a delight.” concluded Sarah Allen.

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