Animal and Plant Systematics

Animal and Plant Systematics

Study of  Reptiles | Plants


Postdoctoral Fellow appointed

Madeleen Struwig

23 January 2017
Dr Madeleen Struwig joined the Botany Department in January 2017 as a Postdoctoral Fellow for two years.  She will be conducting a taxonomic revision on two genera within the Aizoaceae, commonly known as the “vygie” family.  The Aizoaceae is a large family of succulent plants that are mainly distributed in the winter rainfall area of southern Africa.  The genera on which she will be working are however, distributed within central South Africa.  She will also be part of the team that will do a survey on the use of medicinal plants by the people of the Ghaap plateau and the Riemvasmaak area.

Previous work of Dr Struwig included a taxonomic revision on Boerhavia and Commicarpus (Nyctaginaceae) in southern Africa, the taxonomy of the southern African Menispermaceae and the pollen morphology of Prototulbaghia.


Principal Museum Scientist and Head of Department

Michael F. Bates PhD

Mike-BatesMike started working at the Museum in 1983 as a Research Assistant. He was awarded a National Diploma in Nature Conservation from Pretoria Technikon in 1984. He obtained an MSc in Environmental Biology with a thesis entitled "The herpetofauna of the Orange Free State - with special emphasis on biogeographical patterning" (1993, University of Natal, Durban) and a PhD in Zoology with a thesis titled “An analysis of the Pseudocordylus melanotus (A. Smith) complex (Sauria: Cordylidae)” (2007, University of Stellenbosch). Both the latter were completed while at the National Museum.

See Research and Publications for further detail.

Senior Museum Scientist

Dr Cora Sabriel Stobie PhD

Dr Cora Sabriel Stobie is a Senior Museum Scientist in the Herpetology Department at the National Museum. She started workingat the Museum in May2019. Cora obtained her PhD degree (“Population genomics and phylogeography of South African Labeobarbus[Rüppel, 1835] species”) from the University of Pretoria in 2018.

She obtained her BSc and BSc Hons degreesat the University of KwaZulu-Natal. Cora has presented the results of her research at eight conferences locally and internationally.

Herinterests and expertise are primarily in genetics theory and techniques. She has a passion for frogs and is currently involved in a project investigating the phylogeny ofcrag lizards (Pseudocordylus).

Research Assistant

Agnes-PhindaneAgnes Phindane BSc

Agnes obtained her BSc in Microbiology and Biochemistry at the University of the Free State. She was appointed as a Research Assistant in the Department of Herpetology in November 2008, after working for a year as an intern, funded by the national Department of Arts and Culture. Her duties include keeping the various databases (e.g. specimen collection, photographic image collection, literature reprint collection etc.) up to date as well as all aspects of curation.


Museum Assistant

Edgar Mohapi

Edgar joined the Department of Herpetology in 1994. His duties are mainly curatorial, as well as the maintenance and feeding of the Museum's live displays. He is a keen field worker and an expert reptile and amphibian collector.



The Department of Lower Vertebrates was created in April 1971 when Dr S.W.P. de Waal (1971-1980) was appointed Head of Department. During this period the Department of Lower Vertebrates conducted research exclusively on amphibians and reptiles. Prior to this, Dr A.C. Hoffman (1930-1944) had been involved with a variety of herpetological research.

In 1982, shortly after Mr J.H. van Wyk (1982-1988) was appointed Head of the Lower Vertebrate Department, the Department was re-named Department of Herpetology. Subsequent Heads of Department were Dr L.H. du Preez, Dr A.F. Flemming, Dr N.J.L. Heideman and Dr R.M. Douglas (see Research and Publications for further detail).

The Department has the following aims:

  • To conduct research on reptile and amphibian taxonomy.
  • To conduct research on the ecological and environmental aspects of the biology of southern African amphibians and reptiles.
  • To collect, maintain (curate), and research the amphibian and reptile collections.
  • To make the collections available to other researchers.
  • To disseminate research results and other information through the scientific and popular media.
  • To provide educational services and assistance to other institutions and members of the public.
  • To conserve all southern African amphibians and reptiles.

Bates, M.F. & Stanley, E.L. 2020. A taxonomic revision of the south-eastern dragon lizards of the Smaug warreni (Boulenger) species complex in southern Africa, with the description of a new species (Squamata: Cordylidae) PeerJ 8:e8526

Bates, M.F. & Bauer, A.M. 2020. A tribute to William Roy Branch (1946‒2018): Doyen of African Herpetology. African Journal of Herpetology 69(1): 1‒11.

Bates, M.F. & Bauer, A.M. 2020. William Roy Branch (1946‒2018): Doyen of African Herpetology: Bibliography, taxonomic discoveries and patronyms. African Journal of Herpetology 69(1): 119‒150.

Bates, M.F. & Wilson, B. 2020. First record of a Cape cobra Naja nivea (Reptilia: Squamata) preying on an aardwolf Proteles cristatus (Mammalia: Carnivora). African Journal of Ecology. DOI: 101111/aje.12792.

Bates, M.F. & Josling, N. 2020. First record of a pholcid spider (Arachnida: Araneae) feeding on a reptile in South Africa. African Journal of Ecology. DOI: 101111/aje.12835.

Bates, M.F. & Broadley, D.G. 2018. A revision of the egg-eating snakes of the genus Dasypeltis Wagler (Squamata: Colubridae: Colubrinae) in north-eastern Africa and south-western Arabia, with descriptions of three new species. Indago 34(1): 1-95 (in press.).

Bates, M.F. & Du Preez, P.J. 2018. First record of a gecko (Reptilia: Sauria) in the diet of the common duiker Sylvicapra grimmia (Mammalia: Artiodactyla). African Journal of Ecology (in press.).

Bates, M.F. 2017. Dasypeltis atra Sternfeld, 1912 (Reptilia: Serpentes): proposed precedence over Dasypeltis lineolata W. Peters, 1878. (Submitted to Bulletin of Zoological Nomenclature; registered as Case number 3750)

Stanley, E.L., Ceríaco, L.M.P., Bandeira, S., Valerio, H., Bates, M.F. & Branch, W.R. 2016. A review of Cordylus machadoi (Squamata: Cordylidae) in southwestern Angola, with the description of a new species from the Pro-Namib desert. Zootaxa 4061(3): 201-226.

Ceriaco, L.M.P., Gutierrez, E.E., Dubois, A. et al. (including Bates, M.F., author no. 35). 2016. Photography-based taxonomy is inadequate, unnecessary, and potentially harmful for biological sciences. Zootaxa 4196 (3): 435-445.

Makhubo, B.G., Tolley, K.A. & Bates, M.F. 2015. Molecular phylogeny of the Afroedura nivaria (Reptilia: Gekkonidae) species complex in South Africa provides insight on cryptic speciation. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 82: 31-42.

Stanley, E.L. & Bates, M.F. 2014. Here be dragons: a phylogenetic and biogeographical study of the Smaug warreni species complex (Squamata: Cordylidae) in southern Africa. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 172: 892-909.

Bates, M.F., Tolley, K.A., Edwards, S., Davids, Z., da Silva, J.M. & Branch, W.R. 2013. A molecular phylogeny of the African plated lizards, genus Gerrhosaurus Wiegmann, 1828 (Squamata: Gerrhosauridae), with the description of two new genera. Zootaxa 3750(5): 465-493.

Bates, M.F. 2013. First records of the egg-eating snake Dasypeltis confusa Trape & Mane, 2006 in Nigeria and Chad, with range extensions for Ghana. Navorsinge van die Nasionale Museum, Bloemfontein 29(2): 17-27.

Bates, M.F. & Little, I. 2013. Predation on the eggs of ground-nesting birds by Dasypeltis scabra (Linnaeus, 1758) in the moist highland grasslands of South Africa. Afr. J. Herpetol. 62(2): 125-134.

Böhm, M., Collen, B., Baillie, J.E.M. et al., Bates, M.F. et al. 2013. The Conservation Status of the World’s Reptiles. Biological Conservation 157: 372-385. (Online version published December 2012.)

Bates, M.F. & Ineich, I. 2012. A new size record for the West African egg-eating snake Dasypeltis gansi Trape & Mane, 2006, with new distribution records. Navorsinge van die Nasionale Museum, Bloemfontein 28(3): 41-48.

Bates, M.F., Pietersen, D.W. & Measey, J. 2010. New amphisbaenian records for the Northern Cape, South Africa. Navorsinge van die Nasionale Museum, Bloemfontein 26(3): 61-72.

Douglas, R.M., Holmes, P.J. & Tredoux, M. 2010. New perspectives on the fossilization of faunal remains and the formation of the Florisbad archaeozoological site, South Africa. Quaternary Science Review 29: 3275-3285.

Broadley, D.G. & Bates, M.F. 2009. New range extensions for Dasypeltis atra Sternfeld in Tanzania (Serpentes: Colubridae) with a review of the distribution of colour phases. African Journal of Herpetology 58(1): 50-55.

Bates, M.F. 2007. First records of the Cape Girdled Lizard, Cordylus cordylus (Linnaeus, 1758), in Lesotho. Navorsinge van die Nasionale Museum, Bloemfontein 23(6): 185-195.

Douglas, R.M. 2007. Acariphagy in amphibian and reptile diet studies: what are the probabilities? Biota8(1-2): 11-25.

Douglas, R.M. 2006. Is the spring water responsible for the fossilization of faunal remains at Florisbad, South Africa. Quaternary Research 65(1): 87-95.

Douglas, R.M. 2006. Formation of the Florisbad spring and fossil site – an alternative hypothesis, Journal of Archaeological Research 33(5): 696-706.

Douglas, R.M. & Rall, M. 2006. Seasonal sheltering selection by Leopard tortoises (Geochelone pardalis) in the Franklin Nature Reserve, Free State, South Africa. Chelonian Conservation and Biology5(1): 121- 129.

Bates, M.F. 2005. Taxonomic history and geographical distribution of the Pseudocordylus melanotus(A. Smith, 1838) and P. microlepidotus (Cuvier, 1829)complexes (Sauria: Cordylidae). Navorsinge van die Nasionale Museum, Bloemfontein 21(4): 37-112.

Bates, M.F. & Haacke, W.D. 2003. The frogs of Lesotho: Diversity and distribution. Navorsinge van die Nasionale Museum, Bloemfontein 19(6): 101-158.

Bates, M.F. 2002. The distribution of Amietia vertebralis (Hewitt, 1927) (Anura: Ranidae), with comments on its taxonomic and conservation status. Navorsinge van die Nasionale Museum, Bloemfontein 18(5): 77-96.

Douglas, R.M. 2001. The quality of the Florisbad spring-water in relation to the quality of the groundwater and the effects of rainfall. Water SA 27 (1): 39-48.

Douglas, R.M. 2001. The salinization of the Florisbad organic layers, clay and groundwater. Navorsinge van die Nasionale Museum, Bloemfontein 17 (1): 1-24.

Douglas, R.M. 2000. Further evidence for mites as secondary and tertiary prey in the gastrointestinal tract of frogs and snakes. Herpetological Review 31 (2): 76-78.

Flemming, A.F. and Mouton, P. le F.N. 2000. Geographic variation in sexual size dimorphism in the rock agama, Agama atra (Sauria: Agamidae) African Zoology 35(2): 233-249.

Flemming, A.F. & Bates, M.F. 1999. Reptiles of Mkomazi. Chapter 25, pp. 411-428. In: Coe, M.J., McWilliam, N.C., Stone, G.N. & Packer, M.J. (Eds), Mkomazi: The Ecology, Biodiversity and Conservation of a Tanzanian Savanna. Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers), London.

Heideman, N.J.L. & Bates, M.F. 1999. Diet as possible indicator of size-related microhabitat partitioning in Mabuya striata wahlbergii (Peters 1869) (Reptilia: Scicidae). African Journal of Ecology 37: 110-112.

Bates, M.F., Heideman, N.J.L., Wilson, B.A., Hendricks, M.G.J., Don, N. & Moses, C. 1998.Morphological variation and geographical distribution in the South African lizards Typhlosaurus caecus(Cuvier 1817) and T. vermis Boulenger 1887 (Scincidae: Acontinae). African Journal of Herpetology47(2): 35-41.

Heideman, N.J.L. 1998. New distribution records for Agama etoshae (McLachlan, 1981) in northern Namibia. Israel Journal of Zoology 43: 405-407.

Heideman, N.J.L. 1998. Reproduction in Agama etoshae McLachlan 1981 from Namibia. Amphibia-Reprilia 19: 99-103.

Bates, M.F. 1997. Herpetofauna of the nature reserves and national parks of the Free State province of South Africa. African Journal of Herpetology46(1): 13-29.

Douglas, R.M. 1997. The influence of the central-western Orange Free State panveld on the distribution of amphibians and reptiles. In: (Ed. J.H. van Wyk) Proceedings of the FitzSimons Commemorative Symposium South African Lizards: 50 Years of Progress and the Third H.A.A. Symposium on African Herpetology 152-154.

Heideman, N.J.L. 1997. The effect of varying photothermal regime on testicular activity in Agama aculeata aculeata Merrem, 1820 and Agama planiceps planiceps Peters, 1862 (Reptilia: Agamidae). Journal of African Zoology 111: 95-107.

Bates, M.F. 1996. New reptile distribution records for the Free State province of South Africa. Navorsinge van die Nasionale Museum, Bloemfontein 12(1): 1-47.

Bates, M.F. 1996. Taxonomic status and distribution of the South African lizard Tetradactylus breyeri (Gerrhosauridae). South African Journal of Zoology 31(4): 214-218.

Billawer, W.H. & Heideman, N.J.L. 1996. A comparative analysis of diurnal behavioural activities in males of Agama aculeata aculeata and Agama planiceps planiceps (Reptilia: Agamidae) in Windhoek, Namibia. African Journal of Herpetology 45(2): 68-73.

Du Preez, L.H., Kok, D.J. and Seaman, M.T. 1996. Host recognition behavior of polystome oncomiracidia (Polystomatidae: Manogenea) in contact with natural and substitute anuran hosts. Journal of African Zoology 111(1): 47-55.

Heideman, N.J.L. 1996. The effect of varying photothermal regime on testicular activity in Agama aculeata aculeata Merrem, 1862 and Agama planiceps planiceps Peters, 1962 (Reptilia; Agamadae). Journal of African Zoology 111(2): 95-107.

Bates, M.F. 1995. Distribution and diversity of amphibians in the Free State, South Africa. Madoqua19(1): 3-14.

Douglas, R.M. 1995. The herpetofauna of Florisbad Research Station as largely determined by array trapping. Navorsinge van die Nasionale Museum, Bloemfontein 11(6): 121-148.

Du Preez, L.H. and Kok, D.J. 1995. Polystomatid (Monogenea) of southern African Anura: Polystoma claudecombesi n. sp. parasitic in Rana angolensis  Bocaage. Systematic Parasitology 30: 223-231.

Du Preez, L.H. 1995. Anuran community structure in the Vernon Crookes Nature Reserve, South Africa. Madoqua 19(1): 25-29.

Flemming, A.F. & Bates, M.F. 1995. Male and female reproductive cycles of Bibron’s Gecko Pachydactylus bibronii (Sauria: Gekkonidae) in the Free State province of South Africa. Journal of African Zoology 109(5/6): 409-422.

Heideman, N.J.L. 1995. Is Agama planiceps planiceps better adapted for high running speed and agilit than Agama aculeata aculeata? Inferences from their morphology. Cimbebasia 14: 17-21.

Channing, A., du Preez, L.H. and Passmore, N. 1994. Status, vocalization and breeding biology of two species of African bullfrogs (Ranidae: Pyxicephalus). Journal of the Zoological Society of London234: 141-148.

Flemming, A.F. 1994. The male and female reproductive cycles of the viviparous lizard Mabuya capensis (Sauria: Scincidae). Journal of Herpetology 28: 334-341.

Flemming, A.F. 1994. Male and female reproductive cycles of the vivparous lizard, Mabuya capensis(Sauria: Scincidae) from South Africa. Journal of Herpetology 28(3): 334-341.

Flemming, A.F. 1994. Reproductive cycles of the snakes Psammophis cruciferP. leightoni and P. notostictus (Serpentes: Colubridae) in the Orange Free State, South Africa. Journal of the Herpetological Association of Africa 43: 19-27.

Maritz, M.F. & Douglas, R.M. 1994. Shape quantization and the estimation of volume and surface area of reptile eggs. Journal of Herpetology 28(3): 281-291.

Van Wyk, J.H. 1994. Fat body and liver cycles in the large girdled lizard Cordylus giganteusAmphibia-Reptilia 15: 153-169.

Douglas, R.M. 1993. High water potential vermiculite as an incubation medium for reptile eggs. British Herpetological Society Bulletin 45: 5-13.

Douglas, R.M. 1993. High water potential vermiculite as an incubation medium for reptile eggs. Australian Herpetological News 13: 4-8 (Reprinted from Br. Herp. Soc. Bull. 45: 5-13).

Du Preez, L.H. & Kok, D.J. 1993. Polystomatidae (Monogenea) of Anura in southern Africa: Polystoma testimagna n.sp. parasitic in Strongylopus f. fasciatus (Smith, 1849). Systematic Parasitology 25: 213-219.

Flemming, A.F. 1993. Seasonal variation in testicular and fat-body weight and plasma testosterone and androstenedione concentration in the lizard Cordylus polyzonus (Sauria: Cordylidae). South African Journal of Zoology 28: 127-131.

Flemming, A.F. 1993. The female reproductive cycle of the viviparous lizard Pseudocordylus m. melanotus (Sauria: Cordylidae). Journal of Herpetology 27(1): 103-107.

Flemming, A.F. 1993. The male reproductive cycle of the lizard Pseudocordylus m. melanotus (Sauria: Cordylidae). Journal of Herpetology 27(4): 473-478.

Bates, M.F., De Swardt, D.H. & Louw, S. 1992. A note on the diet of the Yellowbilled Egret. Ostrich63(1): 44.

Douglas, R.M. 1992. The use of adrenalin in the treatment of snake venom opthalmia caused by southern African spitting cobras. Cobra (Madras Snake Park Trust, India) 6: 3-5.

Douglas, R.M. 1992. The use of adrenalin in the treatment of snake venom opthalmia caused by southern African spitting cobras. African Herp News 18: 29-31. (Reprinted from Cobra (Madras Snake Park Trust, India) 6: 3-5.

Douglas, R.M. 1992. Microscopic investigation of the digestive tract contents of spotted grass snakes, Psammophylax rhombeatus rhombeatusJournal of African Zoology 106: 401-411.

Douglas, R.M. 1992. Acari as tertiary prey in the gut of the rhombic or spotted skaapsteker, Psammophylax rhombeatus rhombeatusSouth African Journal of Science 88: 450-451.

Du Preez, L.H. and Kok, D.J. 1992. Syntopic occurrence of new species of Polystoma  and Metapolystoma (Monogenea: Polystomatidae) in Ptychadena porosissima in South Africa. Systematic Parasitology 22: 141-150.

Du Preez, L.H. 1992. Can the keratodont ultrastructure of larval anurans be used as a taxonomic character? Electron Microscopy Society of Southern Africa 22: 111.

Flemming, A.F. and van Wyk, J.H. 1992. The female reproductive cycle of the lizard Cordylus p. polyzonus (Sauria: Cordylidae) in the southwestern Cape Province, South Africa. Journal of Herpetology 26(2): 121-127.

Bates, M.F. 1991. A re-evaluation of the taxonomic status of Xenocalamus bicolor concavorostralisHoffman, 1940 (Serpentes: Atractaspidinae). South African Journal of Zoology 26(2): 78-81.

Bates, M.F. 1991. A provisional check list of the reptiles and amphibians of Golden Gate Highlands National Park. Koedoe 34(2): 153-155.

Van Wyk, J.H. 1991. Biennial reproduction in the female viviparous lizard Cordylus giganteusAmphibia-Reptilia 12: 329-342.

Douglas, R.M. 1990. Volume determinations of reptilian and avian eggs with practical applications. (With a computer program in BASIC for calculations in the paper available on request) South African Journal of Wildlife Research. 20(3): 111-117.

Douglas, R.M. 1990. The effects of temperature on embryonic sex determination and behaviour in reptiles, with special reference to Eublepharis maculariusJournal of the Herpetological Association of Africa 38: 28-31.

Douglas, R.M. 1990. Fire prevention and control in Museums. South African Museums Association Bulletin (SAMAB) 18 (5): 195-210.

Van Wyk, J.H. 1990. Seasonal testicular activity and morphometric variation in the femoral glands of the lizard Cordylus polyzonus (Sauria: Cordylidae). Journal of Herpetology  24: 405-409.

Bates, M.F. 1989. Tail break frequency, tail size and the extent of caudal autotomy in the Cape thick-tailed gecko, Pachydactylus capensis capensis (Sauria: Gekkonidae). Navorsinge van die Nasionale Museum, Bloemfontein 6(7): 223-242.

Douglas, R.M. 1989. A new method of cross-sectioning hair of larger mammals. South African Journal of Wildlife Research 19 (2): 73-76.

Douglas, R.M. 1989. Analysis of a Python anchietae faecal sample. Herpetological Review 20 (3): 59-60.

Van Wyk, J.H. 1983. Seasonal breeding in the female rock lizard Agama atra (Sauria: Agamidae) in the south-western Cape Province with special reference to possible environmental controlling factors. Navorsinge van die Nasionale Museum, Bloemfontein 4(8): 193-208.

De Waal, S.W.P. 1980. The Testudines (Reptilia) of the Orange Free State, South Africa. Navorsinge van die Nasionale Museum, Bloemfontein 4(3): 85-91.

De Waal, S.W.P. 1980. The Salientia (Amphibia) of the Orange Free State, South Africa. Navorsinge van die Nasionale Museum, Bloemfontein 4(4): 93-120.

De Waal, S.W.P. 1978. The Squamata (Reptilia) of the Orange Free State, South Africa. Memoirs van die Nasionale Museum, Bloemfontein 11: 1-160.

Hoffman, A.C. 1944. Frogs from Chitiala, Nyasaland, together with descriptions of new species. Soölogiese Navorsinge van die Nasionale Museum, Bloemfontein1(14): 173-182.

Hoffman, A.C. 1944. A new species of Kassina from Zululand with a note on the occurrence and habits of the species by J.H. Power. Soölogiese Navorsinge van die Nasionale Museum, Bloemfontein1(13): 169-172.

Hoffman, A.C. 1942. Investigations on the anatomical characters of the genus Kassina, together with descriptions of the different species and of two new species. Soölogiese Navorsinge van die Nasionale Museum, Bloemfontein 1(12): 113-166.

Hoffman, A.C. 1940. A new species of Xenocalamus from Bloemfontein. Soölogiese Navorsinge van die Nasionale Museum, Bloemfontein 1(11): 111-112.

Hoffman, A.C. 1940. Reptiles and amphibians collected in Natal during January 1940. SoölogieseNavorsinge van die Nasionale Museum, Bloemfontein 1(10): 103-110.

Hoffman, A.C. 1940. Three new species of frog from Greytown, Natal. Soölogiese Navorsinge van die Nasionale Museum, Bloemfontein 1(9): 97-101.

Hoffman, A.C. 1939. A new frog from Thaba’Nchu. Soölogiese Navorsinge van die Nasionale Museum, Bloemfontein 1(8): 89-95.

Hoffman, A.C. 1936. Die anatomie van die skouergordels en die ontwikkeling by die Urodle – Cryptobranchs allleghaniensi en Necturus maculatusSoölogiese Navorsinge van die Nasionale Museum, Bloemfontein 1(5): 33-50.

Hoffman, A.C. 1935. Oor die non-homologie van die medio-ventrale presonale skeletelemente by die amphibië, Anura en Urodele. Soölogiese Navorsinge van die Nasionale Museum, Bloemfontein 1(2): 3-19.

Hoffman, A.C. 1935. Die sistematiese posisie van HeleophrynSoölogiese Navorsinge van die Nasionale Museum, Bloemfontein 1(1): 1-2.

Douglas, R. M. 2010. An amazing symbiotic relationship between the Sugar-pot plant and rodent pollinators. Culna 65: 12-13.

Douglas, R.M. 2010. Part 7. Misconceptions about some Free State snakes. Krant (Newspaper, 2 June).

Douglas, R.M. 2010. Part 6: The more common snakes of bloemfontein (Part 2). Krant  (Newspaper, 26 May).

Douglas, R.M. 2010. Part 5: The more common snakes of Bloemfontein (Part 1). Krant (Newspaper, 19 May).

Douglas, R.M. 2010. Part 4: A guide to the treatment of nake bites (Part 2). Krant (Newspaper, 5 May).

Douglas, R.M. 2010. Part 3: A guide to the treatment of snake bite (Part 1). Krant (Newspaper, 28 April).

Douglas, R.M. 2010. Part 2: Highly venomous snakes of the Free state (Part 2). Krant (Newspaper, 14 April).

Douglas, R.M. 2010. Part 1: Highly venomous sakes of the Free State. (Part 1) Krant (Newspaper, 7 April).

Douglas, R.M. 2010. Reptile and amphibian research at the National Museum. Krant (Newspaper, 24 February).

Douglas, R.M. 2009. The Scuttle Fly, a miniature garbade disposal unit. Culna 64: 23-24.

Bates, M.F. 2009. The egg-eating snakes of Africa. Culna 64: 2-4.

Bates, M.F. & Maguire, D. 2009. Geographical Distribution: Zygaspis vandami arenicolaAfrican Herp News 47: 43-44.

Bates, M.F., Anderson, W.M. & Bourquin, S. 2009. Amblyodipsas polylepis polylepis: Diet. African Herp News 47: 41-42.

Bates, M.F. 2008. Book review: A Guide to the Reptiles of Southern Africa, by G. Alexander & J. Marais. African Journal of Herpetology 57(1): 59-61.

Bates, M.F. 2008. Book review: What’s that Snake? A starters guide to snakes of southern Africa, by J. Marais. African Journal of Herpetology 57(1): 57-58.

Bates, M.F. 2008. Lang’s crag lizard in the Free State. Culna 63: 31-32.

Bates, M.F. 2007. Book review: Chameleons of South Africa, by K. Tolley & M. Burger. African Journal of Herpetology 56(2): 185-189.

Bates, M.F. 2007. Cape Cobras and Mole Snakes: Heavyweight snakes of the Free State! Culna 62: 12-13.

Bates, M.F. 2006. Lesotho: Home to 23 Species of Frogs (Some with Enchanting Names). ToGoTo. 15: 54-55.

Douglas, R.M. 2006. Terrestrial rearing of African Fish-eagle (Haliaeetus vocifer) chicks in the Kruger National Park. GABAR 17(1): 17.

Bates, M.F. 2005. Dwarf geckos have invaded Bloemfontein! Culna 60: 6-7.

Bates, M.F. 2005. Thar be Dragons. Nouveau 12: 56-58.

Bates, M.F. 2004. New Frog Records for the Free State. Culna 59: 8-10.

Bates, M.F. 2004. Geographical Distribution: Chiromantis xerampelinaAfrican Herp News 37: 28-29.

Douglas, R.M. 2004. Good snakes, dragons and other cold-blooded creatures of the Bible. Culna 58: 5-6.

Douglas, R.M. 2003. Snoozing means different things to different organisms. Culna 57: 20-22.

Bates, M.F. 2002. The Transvaal Girdled Lizard: a taxonomic enigma in the Free State. Culna 57: 31-33.

Bates, M.F. & Irish, E. 2002. Life History Note: Bufo vertebralis: Diet. African Herp News 35: 17-18.

Douglas, R.M. 2002. Groundwater quality: The quality of the Florisbad spring-water in relation to the quality of the groundwater and the effects of rainfall. Borehole Water Journal 49: 2

Bates, M.F. 2001. Crag Lizards: How many species? Culna 56: 22-23.

Douglas, R.M. 2001. If you are going to get bitten by a snake – Get it right. Culna 56: 18-19.

Douglas, R.M. 2000. Is any egg safe from a snake? Culna 55: 13-14.

Douglas, R.M. 2000. Fiskal Shrike Lanius collaris goes fishing. Mirafra 17: 43.

Yeadon, R.B. & Bates, M.F. 2000. Geographical Distribution: Aspidelaps lubricus lubricus. African Herp News 31: 16-17.

Douglas, R.M. 1999. Snake and lizard beliefs and superstitions: Fact or fiction? Culna 54: 22-23.

Van Wyk, J.C.P. & Bates, M.F. 1999. Geographical Distribution: Homopus boulengeriAfrican Herp News 29: 42-43.

Bates, M.F. 1998. The slug- and snail-eating snakes of Africa. Culna 53: 25-26.

Douglas, R.M. 1988. Cobras and cows-milk, fact or fiction? Express (Newspaper ) page 12

Wilson, B.A., Hendricks, M.G.J., Heideman, N.J.L., Bates, M.F., Don, N. & Moses, C. 1998.Geographical Distribution: Acontias meleagris meleagrisAfrican Herp News 27: 20-21.

Kopij, G. & Bates, M.F. 1997. Reptiles and Amphibians of Bloemfontein. Die Kovshaan 17: 17-23.

Bates, M.F. 1997. In search of the elusive flat geckos of the eastern Free State. Culna 51: 13-15.

Bates, M.F. & Heideman, N.J.L. 1997. Report on a collection of lizards from Owambo district, northern Namibia. African Herp News 26: 16-21.

Douglas, R.M. 1997. The reptile and frog invaders (Part I). Culna 51: 25-27.

Douglas, R.M. 1997. A museum or a heritage collection – there is still room for improvement. Talk of the Town 1: 31 24

Douglas, R.M. 1997. Colloquialisms should prevail for common names – A reply to `Tortoise? Turtle? or maybe Terrapin? The Tortoise Society of Natal Newsletter. May 3-4.

Douglas, R.M. 1997. More to yolk and albumen than meets the eye. The Tortoise Society of Natal Newsletter. July 12-15.

Douglas, R.M. 1997. Over-wintering of indigenous tortoises. The Tortoise Society of Natal Newsletter. July 10-12.

Douglas, R.M. 1997. The reptile and frog invaders (Part II). Culna 52: 25-28.

Heideman, N.J.L. 1997. Agama etoshae: Summer diurnal activity. African Herp News 26:26-27.

Bates, M.F. 1996. Swee waxbill in the Free State and Lesotho. Mirafra 13(1): 7-9.

Douglas, R.M. 1996. Incubating reptile eggs. Free State Herpetological Association Newsletter 5: 4-5.

Douglas, R.M. 1996. Is the Toadstone really a myth. Culna 50: 37-38.

Bates, M.F. 1995. Mabuya sulcata sulcata: Reproduction. African Herp News 24: 23-25.

Bates, M.F. 1995. Atlas of frog distribution in the Free State. African Herp News 23: 15-31.

Bates, M.F. 1995. Poisonous snakes of the Free State. Culna 49: 12-14.

Bates, M.F. 1995. Geographical Distribution: Typhlops schinziiAfrican Herp News 22: 53.

Bates, M.F. 1995. Chamaesaura aenea: Size and Reproduction. African Herp News 22: 46-47.

Bates, M.F. 1995. Agama aculeata aculeata: Size and Reproduction. African Herp News 22: 43-44.

Bates, M.F. 1995. Report on a collection of amphibians and reptiles from the northern Cape and Namibia. African Herp News 22: 31-40.

Bates, M.F. & Douglas, R.M. 1995. Life History Note: Chamaeleo dilepis dilepis: Reproduction and cannibalism. African Herp News 22: 45.

Bates, M.F. & Flemming, A.F. 1995. Geographical Distribution: Mabuya sulcata sulcataAfrican Herp News 23: 47.

Bates, M.F. & Flemming, A.F. 1995. New lizard distribution records for the Northern Cape province of South Africa. African Herp News 23: 40-41.

Douglas, R.M. 1995. Bone crushers of the snake world – the constrictors. Culna 48: 38-39.

Douglas, R.M. 1995. Utilization of an urban fish pond by the Olive thrush Tardus olivaceusMirafra12(1&2): 7-8.

Douglas, R.M. 1995. Life History Note: Pyxicephalus asdspersus: Highveld bullfrog: Juvenile growth. African Herp News 24: 20-23.

Douglas, R.M. 1995. Life History Note: Pyxicephalus asdspersus: Highveld bullfrog: Diet, cannibalism, behaviour and size. African Herp News 22: 41-43.

Douglas, R.M. 1995. Give a snake a bad name. Culna 49: 36-37.

Douglas, R.M. 1995. A Cape Wagtail Motacillia capensis feeding in association with a swimming pool cleaner. Mirafra 12(3&4): 8-9.

Bates, M.F. 1994. The Transvaal grass lizard in the Orange Free State. Culna 37: 32-33.

Bates, M.F. 1994. The Cape wolf snake: a specialised lizard-eater. Culna 46: 36-38.

Bates, M.F. & De Swardt, D.H. 1994. Mabuya variegata punctulata, Mabuya striata sparsa andMeroles suborbitalis: Avian predation. African Herp News 21: 18-19.

Douglas, R.M. 1994. New Southern African Museums Association Regional Branch for the Orange Free State and Northern Cape. Tourism News O.F.S. (SATOUR) 7: 49-50.

Douglas, R.M. 1994. Which are the most poisonous snakes in South Africa and the world. Culna 46: 30-32.

Douglas, R.M. 1994. Constitution of the Free State Herpetological Association. (New Constitution written, revised and amended 1995) 1-6.

Douglas, R.M. & Douglas, K.G. 1994. How to stay upside down in an upright world. Culna 47: 12-13.

Bates, M.F. 1993. Identification key to the frogs of the Orange Free State. African Herp News 20: 33-36.

Bates, M.F. 1993. Storage of preserved amphibians and reptiles at the National Museum, Bloemfontein. African Herp News 19: 37-42.

Bates, M.F. 1993. Amphisbaenians – what are they? Culna 45: 7-10.

Bates, M.F. 1993. Geographical Distribution: Tetradactylus tetradactylus. Journal of the Herpetological Association of Africa 42: 41.

Bates, M.F. 1993. Geographical Distribution: Acontias lineatus lineatus. Journal of the Herpetological Association of Africa 42: 41.

Bates, M.F. 1993. Geographical Distribution: Pachydactylus mariequensis latirostris. Journal of the Herpetological Association of Africa 42: 41.

Bates, M.F. 1993. Tetradactylus tetradactylus: Size. Journal of the Herpetological Association of Africa 42: 38.

Bates, M.F. 1993. Tetradactylus breyeri: Reproduction. Journal of the Herpetological Association of Africa 42: 37-38.

Bates, M.F. 1993. Extremely rare lizards found at Sterkfontein Dam Nature Reserve. Culna 44: 34-36.

Bates, M.F. & Douglas, R.M. 1993. Life History Note: Lamprophis aurora: Diet. Journal of the Herpetological Association of Africa. 42: 38-39.

Bates, M.F. & Haagner, G.V. 1993. Mabuya varia: Reproduction. Journal of the Herpetological Association of Africa 42: 36-37.

Douglas, R.M. 1993. A glossary of terms associated with colour variations in snakes. African Herp News 19: 26-33.

Douglas, R.M. 1993. Life History Note: Lygodactylus capensis capensis: Reproduction. Journal of the Herpetological Association of Africa 42: 34-35.

Douglas, R.M. 1993. Life History Note: Platysaurus intermedius wilhelmi: Reproduction. Journal of the Herpetological Association of Africa 42: 35.

Douglas, R.M. 1993. Life History Note: Agama atra: Reproduction. Journal of the Herpetological Association of Africa 42: 35-36.

Douglas, R.M. 1993. The lighter side of identifying snakes. Culna 45: 20-21.

Douglas, R.M. 1993. Comment on Stun-Gun for snake bite. African Herp News 19: 45-46.

Douglas, R.M. 1993. Constitution of the Central Branch of the South African Museums Association. (Old Constitution rewritten) 1-6.

Bates, M.F. 1992. The grid and locus code method for plotting locality records. African Herp News 18: 21-23.

Bates, M.F. 1992. Bibron’s Gecko: The super-predator with a big bite. Culna 42: 6-7.

Bates, M.F. 1992. Elapsoidea sundevallii media: Diet. Journal of the Herpetological Association of Africa 41: 45.

Bates, M.F. 1992. Geographical Distribution: Cacosternum boettgeri. Journal of the Herpetological Association of Africa 41: 36.

Bates, M.F. 1992. Herpetofauna of the Orange Free State: An interim update on distribution. Journal of the Herpetological Association of Africa 40: 42-45.

Bates, M.F. & Douglas, R.M. 1992. Herpetofauna of an open grassland near Aliwal North, northeastern Cape Province. Journal of the Herpetological Association of Africa 41: 28-29.

Douglas, R.M. 1992. Bibliographical index to the Journal of the Herpetological Association of Africa No. 1 (1965) to No. 39 (1991). African Herp News 17: 1-46.

Douglas, R.M. 1992. Some interesting ideas on snake bite management in India. African Herp News 16: 43-44.

Douglas, R.M. 1992. Exceptional Contribution to African Herpetology Award: Prof. J. C. Poynton. African Herp News 16: 10-12.

Douglas, R.M. 1992. Homing instinct in the Fiscal shrike Lanius collarisMirafra 9(2): 31.

Douglas, R.M. 1992. Life History Note: Mabuya quinquetaeniata margaritifer: Reproduction. Journal of the Herpetological Association of Africa 41: 41-42.

Douglas, R.M. 1992. Life History Note: Gerrhosaurus flavigularis: Reproduction. Journal of the Herpetological Association of Africa 41: 42.

Douglas, R.M. 1992. The illusive Dwarf chameleons of Golden Gate. Culna 44: 14-16.

Bates, M.F. 1991. Recent and current herpetofaunal surveys in South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland. African Herp News 16: 45-47.

Bates, M.F. 1991. The giant frog of the Lesotho mountains. Culna 41: 23-24.

Bates, M.F. 1991. Ophidiophobia. African Herp News 15: 44-45.

Bates, M.F. 1991. New distribution records for amphibians and reptiles from the Cape Province, South Africa. Journal of the Herpetological Association of Africa 39: 14-18.

Bates, M.F. 1991. Reproductive data on the Cape thick-toed gecko, Pachydactylus capensis capensis(A. Smith, 1845). Journal of the Herpetological Association of Africa 39: 6-7.

Bates, M.F. & De Swardt, D.H. 1991. Mabuya capensis: Avian predation. Journal of the Herpetological Association of Africa 39: 23.

Bates, M.F. & Douglas, R.M. 1991. First record of the Natal ghost frog in the Orange Free State. Culna 40: 14-15.

Bates, M.F. & Flemming, A.F. 1991. Redbilled oxpeckers in the Orange Free State. Mirafra 8(2): 46-47.

Douglas, R.M. 1991. Do Sungazers gaze at the sun? Zooey – Friends of the Bloemfontein Zoo – Newsletter. 1(2): 4.

Douglas, R.M. 1991. Squatter sparrows resettled. Mirafra 8(1): 3.

Douglas, R.M. 1991. Genetic perspectives in the captive breeding of foreign snakes. Tharu 5(1): 19-21.

Douglas, R.M. 1991. Quest for the chameleon. Mirafra 8(1): 6-8.

Douglas, R.M. 1991. Amendments to the Constitution of the Herpetological Association of Africa. African Herp News 15:7-13.

Douglas, R.M. 1991. Further proposed amendments to the Constitution of the Herpetological Association of Africa. African Herp News 15: 13-14.

Douglas, R.M. 1991. Comment on the article – Local leguans latest fad on coke circuit. African Herp News 15: 57-59.

Douglas, R.M. 1991. Mopane worms in Bloemfontein. Culna 41: 20.

Bates, M.F. 1990. Bifid, trifid and branched tails in lizards. African Herp News 14: 19-22.

Bates, M.F. 1990. Record-breaking reptiles. African Herp News 13: 27-29.

Bates, M.F. 1990. Where do egg-eaters find food in open grassland areas. African Herp News 13: 21-23.

Bates, M.F. 1990. An unusual lizard exhibit. Culna 39: 31-32.

Bates, M.F. 1990. Geographical distribution: Phrynomerus bifasciatus bifasciatus. Journal of the Herpetological Association of Africa 37: 57.

Bates, M.F. 1990. Varanus albigularis: Hibernation. Journal of the Herpetological Association of Africa37: 50.

Bates, M.F. 1990. Worm snakes found in cow dung. Mirafra 7(3): 68-69.

Bates, M.F. 1990. Scavenging behaviour by the slender mongoose. Mirafra 7(2): 50.

Bates, M.F. 1990. The snake-eating snake. Culna 38: 30.

Bates, M.F. 1990. Pythons and cane rats. Herpetological Association of Africa Newsletter 12: 5.

Bates, M.F. 1990. The giant of the frog world. Herpetological Association of Africa Newsletter 12: 3.

Bates, M.F. & De Swardt, D. 1990. Cacosternum boettgeri and Xenopus laevis laevis: Avian predation. Journal of the Herpetological Association of Africa 37: 46.

Douglas, R.M. 1990. Obituary: Dr. Reginald Frederick Lawrence 1897-1987. Herpetological Association of Africa Newsletter 12: 7-8.

Douglas, R.M. 1990. The birth of a Dwarf chameleon. Culna 38: 18-19.

Douglas, R.M. 1990. A new constitution for the Herpetological Association of Africa. African Herp News 13: 5-14.

Douglas, R.M. 1990. Chameleons in the Orange Free State? Mirafra. 7(4): 100-102.

Douglas, R.M. 1990. Boomslang predation on the southern black tit. Hornbill 23: 31-32.

Douglas, R.M. 1990. Life History Note: Cacosternum boettgeri: Dainty frog: Feeding, predation and termites. Journal of the Herpetological Association of Africa 37: 45.

Douglas, R.M. 1990. Dwergverkleurmannetjies in Bloemfontein gebore. Toktokkie (Afrikaans edition) 11(6): 8.

Douglas, R.M. 1990. Dwarf chameleons born in Bloemfontein. Toktokkie (English edition) 11 (6): 8.

Bates, M.F. 1989. Tail loss frequency and its significance in the Cape thick-toed gecko, Pachydactylus capensis capensis. (Abstract). Journal of the Herpetological Association of Africa 36: 76.

Bates, M.F. 1989. Lizards and their tails. National Museum News 37: 44-46.

Bates, M.F. 1989. The flat geckos of Thaba Phatshwa mountain. National Museum News 36: 33-34.

Douglas, R.M. 1989. The spotted house snake. National Museum News 36: 20.

Douglas, R.M. 1989. Some interesting facts on reptiles. National Museum News 37: 3-4.

Bates, M.F. 1988. New distribution records for the Orange Free State. (Amphibians and Reptiles). Journal of the Herpetological Association of Africa 34: 51.

Bates, M.F. 1988. Geographical distribution: Xenocalamus mechowi inornatus. Journal of the Herpetological Association of Africa 34: 50.

Bates, M.F. 1988. Geographical distribution: Xenocalamus bicolor bicolorJournal of the Herpetological Association of Africa 34: 50.

Bates, M.F. 1988. Geographical distribution: Typhlosaurus lineatus lineatus. Journal of the Herpetological Association of Africa 34: 50.

Bates, M.F. 1988. Pachydactylus capensis capensis: Aggressive behaviour. Journal of the Herpetological Association of Africa 34: 49.

Bates, M.F. 1988. Pachydactylus mariquensis mariquensis: Avian predation. Journal of the Herpetological Association of Africa 34: 49.

Bates, M.F. 1988. Mabuya capensis: Avian predation. Journal of the Herpetological Association of Africa 34: 48.

Bates, M.F. 1988. Mabuya variegata punctulata: Avian predation. Journal of the Herpetological Association of Africa 34: 48.

Bates, M.F. 1988. Bradypodion ventrale ventrale: Reproduction. Journal of the Herpetological Association of Africa 34: 47.

Bates, M.F. 1988. More evidence of the Brown house snake’s hearty appetite. Herpetological Association Africa Newsletter 11: 22.

Bates, M.F. 1988. Two rare lizards from Rouxville and Aliwal North. National Museum News 35: 22-23.

Bates, M.F. 1988. The tortoises and terrapins of the Orange Free State – Part 2: Tortoises and terrapins. National Museum News 34: 12-14.

Douglas, R.M. 1988. Awards for captive breeding. (Editorial) Herpetological Association of Africa Newsletter 11: 3-4.

Bates, M.F. 1987. The tortoises and terrapins of the Orange Free State – Part 1: Tortoises. National Museum News 32: 16-17.

Douglas, R.M. 1987. Defence mechanisms in frogs. National Museum News 32: 26

Douglas, R.M. 1986. How common are fossorial snakes. National Museum News 31: 22-23.

Douglas, R.M. 1986. The mouths of babes. National Museum News 30: 19.

Bates, M.F. 1985. Notes on egg clutches in Lamprophis inornatus and Psammophylax r. rhombeatusJournal of the Herpetological Association of Africa 31: 21-22.

Bates, M.F. 1985. To kill or not to kill snakes. National Museum News 27: 9.

Douglas, R.M. 1985. What did that Skaapsteker have for dinner? National Museum News 28: 33-34.


Composition and Status of the Collections

In terms of the distribution of amphibian and reptile specimens represented in the collection:

99% of specimens are from the southern half of Africa with 90% representing the Free State Province. There are also large collections from other parts of South Africa. The balance is representative of Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, Zaire, and Zimbabwe. The remaining 1% of taxa is non-African and represented by four amphibian, two lizards, seven snake, and two chelonian taxa.

Computerization of Collections

The reptile and amphibian databases are 100% computerized in relation to the catalogue.


Dr Rod Douglas

Dr Michael Bates


The amphibian collection (NMB#-A) comprises 7795 catalogue entries as at 28 February 2011.

The collection comprises 100 species and subspecies. There are 27 amphibian species and subspecies occurring naturally in the Free State of which over 95% are represented in the collection. The collection therefore mainly consists of non-Free State taxa from the rest of South Africa and other African countries.

Batches of tadpoles and froglets are usually accessioned together under one number, i.e. the total number of amphibians far exceeds 7795. There are now several thousand tadpoles, stored as a separate collection.

The amphibian collection is representative of the following Families:



The reptile collection (NMB#-R) comprises 9395 catalogue entries as at 28 February 2011.

The collection comprises 270 species and subspecies: 270 (157 lizards, eight amphisbaenians, 94 snakes, 11 chelonians). The collection also comprises a large component of non-Free State taxa from the rest of South Africa and other African countries.

There are 99 reptile taxa occurring in the Free State (55 lizards, 38 snakes, one amphisbaenian and four chelonians) of which 95% are represented in the collection.

The reptile collection is representative of the following Families:

Collaborative Projects

Bates, M.F. Pseudocordylus project in collaboration with Mr E. Stanley of the American Museum of Natural History, New York and Dr M. Cunningham of the University of the Free State, Qwa-Qwa campus.

Bates, M.F. Dasypeltis project in collaboration with Dr D.G. Broadley of the Biodiversity Foundation for Africa, Zimbabwe.

Bates, M.F. Cordylus warreni complex project in collaboration with Mr E. Stanley of the American Museum of Natural History, New York.

Bates, M.F. Cordylus vittifer project in collaboration with Dr M. Cunningham of the University of the Free State, Qwa-Qwa campus.

Bates, M.F. Gerrhosaurus project in collaboration with Ms J. da Silva of the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI).

Bates, M.F. Amphisbaenian project in collaboration with Dr J. Measey of the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI).

Bates, M.F. Afroedura nivaria project in collaboration with Dr W.R. Branch of Bay World (Port Elizabeth Museum).

Live Displays


The live displays were established to showcase unusual animals, known only by name to many people, and rarely seen. These animals also serve as living examples for lessons provided by the Education Department for school groups, helping to stimulate a keener interest.

Vertebrate live displays

Herpetology Hall

The National Museum vertebrate live displays, which are some of the most popular exhibits in the Museum, include the following:


Red-tailed Boa (Boa constrictor)
Red-tailed Boa (Boa constrictor)

Some of the most popular displays in the Museum are the live displays, and in particular the snake display. The nearly 4-m-long female African Rock Python (Python natalensis) that was on display for many years was a great attraction, particularly among visiting school groups. Unfortunately she died in July 2010 after refusing to eat for some time. Owing to her popularity with the public it was decided to replace her with some other large constrictor. Other constrictors, such as the African Rock Python (P. natalensis), Burmese Python (Python molurus bivittatus), Reticulated Python (Python reticulatus) and Anaconda (Eunectes murinus), were considered unsuitable as they would eventually become too large for the existing cage and would also be a problem to feed later on.

It was therefore decided that Boa Constrictors would be ideal for the display as neither their size nor feeding would be a problem. A male and a female Red-tailed Boa were duly purchased. The Boa Constrictor (Boa constrictor) is one of the few animals whose common name is the same as its scientific name. Boa Constrictors usually grow to about 2,5 m in length, although females may grow to 4 m, and weigh up to 27 kg.

All boas and anacondas belong to the Family Boidae, as opposed to pythons who belong to the Family Pythonidae. Until more recently pythons were considered a subfamily (Pythoninae) of the Boidae and hence boas and pythons were referred to as boids. Generally pythons are found in the Old World (Africa, Asia, Australia) while boas live in both the Old World and the New World (North, Central and South America). There are 10 subspecies of Boa constrictor which live in a variety of habitats from tropical rain forest, to savanna, to desert. However, most occur in tropical rain forests due to their preference for high humidity and temperatures. They are semi-arboreal and nocturnal, preying largely on smaller mammals and birds, with the bulk of their prey comprising rodents. Lizards may also be taken.

Characteristically, the females of both Families attain greater lengths than males, with the males and females of both Families exhibiting the primitive characteristic of a vestigal pelvic girdle. The hind-limbs of the pelvic girdle are visible externally as pelvic spurs, located on either side of the vent, with male spurs being much larger than female spurs. A clear distinction between boas and pythons is that boas give live birth (viviparous), while pythons lay eggs (oviparous).

The distribution of the species Boa constrictor extends from northern Mexico, southwards to Argentina north of 35° S. They also occur on many islands along the coast of Mexico and South America. Some subspecies have only very subtle differences in markings and colouration, and their status as separate sub-species is controversial. On the other hand, colour and pattern variations within a particular subspecies may be sufficient to lead to the assumption that a specimen may well be a different species or subspecies. Captive cross-breeding has made matters even more complicated and it is often very difficult to determine which subspecies a specimen may be, particularly in the Red-tailed Boa group. This is the most commonly kept captive species.

It is sincerely hoped that the public will get many years of pleasure from viewing our two new acquisitions.

The other occupant of this display is a large American Yellow Rat Snake (Elaphe obsoleta).

Common Platannas

(Clawed Frog) (Xenopus laevis)

These unusual amphibians spend their entire lives in water, although they may move overland for brief periods in search of an alternative habitat. The way in which Platannas stuff food into their mouths with their front limbs is fascinating for visitors. Common Platannas, originally from Africa, have now established themselves in many parts of the world.

Yellow-bellied Terrapin

(Pelusios c. castenoides) (freshwater)

There is presently one Yellow-bellied Terrapin on display and it has been a popular exhibit for many, many years. The extended periods of time this Terrapin spends resting on the bottom of its tank often has visitors worried.

Cichlid fish

A large tank contains various cichlid fish, mainly colourful Malawian species, which brighten up this corner of the Herpetology Hall. Fish may appear out of place in this Hall, but were included here to provide a valuable resource for the Education Department to illustrate their lessons to school groups.

Invertebrate live displays

Invertebrate Hall

Australian Redclaw Crayfish

(Cherax quadricarinatus)

African Freshwater Crabs Potamonautes warreni
The freshwater Australian Redclaw Crayfish tank is a very popular exhibit containing a number of crayfish in a rocky habitat. Their bright blue bodies and red claws make them ideal for live exhibition purposes.

African Freshwater Crabs

(Potamonautes warreni)

The African Freshwater Crab display is relatively new. Although referred to as an aquatic species, the African Freshwater Crab is amphibious and can spend considerable time on land, breathing air. These crabs have well developed lungs but retain gills. Freshwater crabs are seen as environmental indicators, reflecting the quality of their habitat, and are useful in biomonitoring.


Madagascar Hissing Cockroach Gromphadorhina portentosa
There are two live cockroach displays, one containing Madagascar Hissing Cockroach (Gromphadorhina portentosa), the other Common House Cockroach (Blattella germanica). Unlike other insects, the Hissing Cockroach female (up to 7 cm long) does not lay eggs but retains the developing embryos inside her body, giving birth to live young. Despite the human loathing of cockroaches, the public are fascinated by these displays.

Bee Hive

A functional African Bee (Apis mellifera) hive has been established in the Museum behind glass, where the daily activities of bees can be observed at close range. This display holds visitors spellbound for ages while they try to locate the Queen bee.

Contact details

For any queries or information regarding the Live and Herpetology displays please contact Dr Mike Bates

Loan Policy

The Departmental Loan Policy will vary depending on what research aspect loan specimens are required for.

For further information please contact Dr Mike Bates

BotanyThe Botany Department became an independent Department in 1981. The main focus of the Department is the extension of the Herbarium. The term Herbarium was first used by Tournefort in 1700 to describe a collection of dried plants. Such a collection is ordered and arranged according to a specific classification system and is used for identification, classification and nomenclature of plant taxa. The Herbarium at the National Museum (NMB) is internationally accredited. Research efforts currently concentrate on the sustainable utilisation of medicinal plants of South Africa.

Zietsman, P.C. & Botha, F.C. 1987. Seed germination of Ziziphus mucronata subsp. mucronataSouth African Journal of Botany 53(5): 341-344.

Zietsman, P.C., Grobbelaar, N. & Van Rooyen, N. 1988. Soil nitrogenase activity of the Nylsvley Nature Reserve. South African Journal of Botany 54(1): 21-27.

Zietsman, P.C., Van Wyk, A.E. & Botha, F.C. 1989. Vegetative and reproductive phenology of Ziziphus mucronata  subsp. mucronata (Rhamnaceae). South African Journal of Botany 55(6): 564-573.

Zietsman, P.C. 1990. Pollination of Ziziphus mucronata  subsp. mucronata (Rhamnaceae). South African Journal of Botany 56(3): 350-355.

Du Preez, P.J. & Zietsman, P.C. 1991. A unique locality for Oleandra distenta, the first recorded for the Orange Free State. Bothalia 21: 65-66.

Zietsman, P.C. 1991. Reproductive biology of Grewia occidentalis L. (Tiliaceae). South African Journal of Botany 57(6): 348-351.

Zietsman, P.C. & Botha, F.C. 1991. Flowering of Ziziphus mucronata  subsp. mucronata(Rhamnaceae): anthesis, pollination and protein synthesis. Bot. Bull. Academia Sinica 33: 33-42.

Zietsman, P.C., Du Preez, P.J. & Bezuidenhout, H. 1992. A preliminary checklist of flowering plants of the Vaalbos National Park. Koedoe 35: 1-10.

Zietsman, P.C. 1993. Pollination in Pelargonium dolomiticum Knuth (Geraniaceae). South African Journal of Botany 59(2): 259-264.

Zietsman, P.C. 1994. Autogamy in Sesamum triphyllum  var. triphyllum (Pedaliaceae). Navors. Nas. Mus., Bloemfontein 10(15): 633-646.

Loubser, J. & Zietsman, P.C. 1994. Rock painting of postulated Brunsvigia sp. (Amaryllidaceae) at Thaba Bosiu, western Lesotho. S.A. Jnl. Science 90: 611-612.

Zietsman, P.C. 1998. Pollination Biology of Cotyledon orbiculata L. var. dactylopsis Toelken (Crassulaceae). Navors. Nas. Mus., Bloemfontein 14(4): 81-96.

Zietsman, P.C. & Bezuidenhout, H. 1999. Flowering plant biodiversity of Augrabies Falls National Park: a comparison between Augrabies Falls National Park, Kalahari Gemsbok National Park, Vaalbos National Park and Goegap Nature Reserve. Koedoe 42: 95-112.

Smith, G.F., Zietsman, P.C., Steyn, E.M.A. & Breuer, I. 2000. Distribution of Haworthia venosa subsp. tessellata in Southern Africa. Haworthiad. 40-43.

Eksteen, D., Pretorius, J.C., Niewoudt, T.D. & Zietsman, P.C. 2001. Mycelial growth inhibition of plant pathogenic fungi by extracts of South African plant species. Annals of Applied Biology 139: 243-249. 

Pretorius, J.C., Magama, S. & Zietsman, P.C. 2003. Growth inhibition of plant pathogenic bacteria and fungi by extracts from selected South African plant species. South African Journal of Botany 69(2): 186-192.

Magama, S., Pretorius, J.C. & Zietsman, P.C. 2003. Antimicrobial properties of extracts from Euclea crispa subsp. crispa (Ebenaceae) towards human pathogens. South African Journal of Botany 69(2): 193-198.

Pretorius, J.C., Magama, S. & Zietsman, P.C. 2003. Purification and identification of antibacterial compounds from Euclea crispa subsp. crispa (Ebenaceae) leaves. South African Journal of Botany69(4): 579-586.

Zietsman, P.C. & Pelser, A. 2004. Sustainable harvesting of Devil’s Claw (Harpagophytum procumbens): A community based conservation approach. Navors. Nas. Mus., Bloemfontein 20(1):1-18.

Zietsman, P.C. Reproductive Biology of Stomatium mustellinum (Aizoaceae). Bothalia. In preparation.



Currently the focus area of research is the sustainable utilisation of indigenous medicinal plants, with much attention paid to the sustainable harvesting of Devil’s Claw (Harpagophytum procumbens). Previously a great deal of research was done on pollination biology.


The Botany Department works in close collaboration with various institutes:

  • South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) – ongoing.
  • University of the Free State (UFS): Department of Organic Chemistry: Natural products, and the Centre for Environmental Management - ongoing.
  • Regional Trade and Facilitation Programme (RTFP) - completed 2009.
  • Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) Resource assessment - completed 2009.
Services Offered

The Botany Department renders support services to the community by supplying information, education, plant identification and research.

Loan Policy

Material will be made available to bone fide research institutions, subject to the Herbarium’s loan conditions.

For enquiries contact Louise Zietsman

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