Reptiles in Fernkloof include tortoise, snakes, lizards, skinks, agamas, chameleons and geckos. The majority are seldom seen due to their shy, nocturnal or burrowing habits. Reptiles obtain their heat externally, usually from the sun. All reptiles bask, absorbing warmth from the environment.
Two species occur in Fernkloof
The Angulate Tortoise Chersina angulata is often seen especially in the spring and summer months. It is endemic to the southern tip of Africa. It seldom grows larger than 25cm. They should not be handled – as they may eject urine, a defence mechanism, which will deplete their limited water supply. The prominent shell extension which sticks forward under its chin comes in handy when a male starts duelling with his rivals. It has a reddish abdomen, hence the Afrikaans name Rooipensie.
Common Southern Padloper Homopus areolatus is a small tortoise, no more than 15cm long. It has a very hooked beak hence the common name Parrot-beaked tortoise. They are good climbers and easily manoeuvre up steep slopes.
A large Leopard Tortoise Geochelone pardalis was introduced to the Reserve some years ago and you may be lucky enough to see it on the lower paths.
At least 10 species of snake are found in the Reserve.
Many are not venomous but all should be treated with respect. Most are shy and present little danger and slide away when they feel the vibration of a walker.
The most venomous snake is the Puff Adder with its beautiful camouflage markings, it is slow to move and is sometimes seen on pathways and rocks. The smaller Berg Adder is also venomous and occurs in the higher areas of the Reserve.
The Boomslang is venomous but shy and spends most of its time in trees. Red-lipped snakes hunt frogs in damp areas at night. Cape Coral snakes are beautifully banded in red and black and are mainly nocturnal.
The Common Slug Eater is a friend of the farmer and gardener. It rolls into a tight spiral when disturbed, hence its Afrikaans name Tabak-rolletjie (Tobacco Roll).
Brown and olive house snakes also occur as does the large mole snake which feeds on rodents and moles.
The Spotted or Rhombic Skaapsteker is fairly common and will bite only if provoked.
Lizards are most easily seen on sunny days often basking on rocky outcrops. The Cape Mountain lizard is endemic to mountainous fynbos areas, together with the more common Mountain lizard. The snake-like Cape Grass lizard has tiny, rudimentary limbs and a long tail with which it appears to swim through long grass. If caught, it coils up like a spring and uncurls explosively as a means of escape. The Cape Girdled lizard or Skurwejantjie jams itself into cracks by inflating its body in order to prevent predation.
The Southern Rock Agama is common and appears in a variety of habitats. Breeding males have bright blue heads, throats and forelimbs hence their Afrikaans name, Bloukopkoggelmander. They perch on the highest part of their territories, raising themselves on their forelegs and nodding their heads in order to warn off intruders (or possibly to see them better). The females and juveniles are plain grey.
Cape Dwarf Chameleon Brachypodion pumilum
Look into the upper branches of the fynbos to find this chameleon. They climb into the top of vegetation in the morning to bask in the sun. They can grow up up 15 cm in length, including the tail. The tongue is twice the length of its body and can be shot out of its mouth using a special muscle in the jaw.
They prey on small insects and water is required regularly and is licked from dew or raindrops.
Their colour is often leaf-green, sometimes a rusty-brown, but colour, saturation and pattern can vary significantly. The young, only 2 cm long at birth, resemble miniature versions of adults, with muted colours. Females may have up to 4 litters a year.