Rietvlei Nature Reserve 13 May 2012 (14) Rhombic Skaapsteker/ Spotted Skaapsteeker

Thx to the guys at http://www.sareptiles.co.za/forum/viewtopic.php?f=150&t=29147&p=236867#p236867 for helping me identify this snake Rhombic Skaapsteker/ Spotted Skaapsteeker Psammophylax rhombeatus (psammo=sand, phylax=guard) or Rhombic Skaapsteker, is a small, attractively patterned, Southern African snake usually measuring between 45 and 85 centimetres in length, though occasionally reaching 140 cm. In colour it is greyish to yellowish brown or olive-brown, with 3-4 rows of dark, rhombus-shaped spots along its back, which may merge to form a zig-zag pattern. The colour and patterning may be quite variable. Its underside is yellowish-white, with the top of the head being uniform brownish. It is found in the Cape Province, Transkei, Natal, Lesotho, Free State, Transvaal, Swaziland, Northern Cape and Namibia. Occurring from sea-level to mountain tops, it is a fast-moving diurnal snake and an active predator on small frogs, lizards and mammals. Its common name, meaning 'sheep stabber' or 'sheep stinger', is misleading as its small teeth are set so far back in the jaw and its neurotoxic venom is so mild, that it is incapable of killing any large animal. It has a gentle disposition, being reluctant to bite even when provoked. The species falls between viviparous and ovoviviparous as it lays its eggs partly incubated.[1] It lays up to 30 eggs of 20-35mm x 12-18mm, taking up to 6 weeks to hatch. Females are occasionally found coiled around their eggs in a protective attitude.[2] The Striped Skaapsteker (Psammophylax tritaeniatus) occurs throughout the same habitat and has similar habits. Coloration varies throughout its distribution area, but a characteristic of the species is the belly is dark with one or two light-coloured crossbands on the throat. Their average length is 90--110 cm.[3] Some individuals may have a mostly black body, while others are striped. Rinkhals scales are distinct from those of true cobras in that they are ridged and keel-like. The Rietvlei Nature Reserve is one of the world's largest urban nature reserves, 3 800 hectares in extent, situated south of the city but still within the city limits. The Rietvlei Nature Reserve lies very close to the highway between Pretoria and OR Tambo International Airport at a height of about 1700 m above sea level, which is about 300 m higher than Pretoria. There were always some small mammals on the farm Rietvlei. The Rietvlei Nature Reserve has been restocked with game that is endemic to the highveld and is now home to large herds of game and because of its open grassland landscape it offers visitors a unique opportunity to view many species of animals. Some of these occur naturally only in South Africa (for example the Black Wildebeest and the Blesbok. Other animals found in the Rietvlei Nature Reserve include the worlds largest antelope, the Eland, Burchell's Zebra, Red Hartebeest, Springbok, Waterbuck, Reedbuck, Ostrich, two of Africa's "big five" Buffalo and White Rhino, Bushpig, as well as a number of Black-backed Jackal, Mountain Reedbuck, Oribi, Grey Duiker, Steenbuck, Brown Hyena, Porcupine, Springhare, Aardwolf and Banded Mongoose. Recently a family group of five hippos as well as cheetah were introduced to Rietvlei. The Rietvlei Nature Reserve Rietvlei also offers lots to interest bird lovers. South Africa's national bird, the Blue Crane, is seen here from time to time, the Secretary Bird is a regular visitor and Rietvlei is home to a breeding pair of Fish Eagles. In addition many other species of bird can be seen including the Orange-throated Longclaw, the Little Egret, the Darter, the Reed Cormorant, the White-breasted Cormorant, the Goliath Heron, the African Finfoot and the Green-backed Heron. The Rietvlei nature reserve is open to private vehicles and offers superb sightings of the wildlife of the South African highveld. There is a bird hide and an area set aside for pic-nics at Marais Dam upstream from Rietvlei Dam and there are day and overnight hiking trails as well as horse trails (all accompanied by reserve staff). There is also a fishing area/camping site along part of the banks of Rietvlei Dam. The Rietvlei Nature Reserve is open daily from 08h00 to 18h00 on weekdays and from 06h00 to 18h00 on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays. Entrance to the reserve closes at 16h00. An entrance fee is charged. Enquiries at the gate and at +27 (0)12 345-2274.