Archive for December, 2009

Recently I spent 5 days with a small group of Butterfly enthusiasts & fellow members of the Lepidopterists Society of Africa on a survey of the Hluhluwe Umfolozi Game Reserve in Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa. We were particularly interested in the Umfolozi portion of the park which contained a number of previously unsurveyed areas. The data was collected as part of the South African Butterfly Conservation Assessment–a four-year conservation project aimed at determining the distribution and conservation priorities of all butterfly species in the Southern African region, especially those threatened with extinction.
We stayed at Maphumalo Camp – a basic campsite open to research and similar groups.
We had previously identified target areas using Google Earth and had a basic idea of where we wanted to go – of course once on the ground we discovered that certain areas were inaccessible for various reasons and we had to be flexible.
Our first day was spent in the Hluhluwe area where our campsite was situated. We hung baited traps in various areas and started our survey. As the park is home to various large & dangerous animals–including Lion, Leopard, Cheetah, Buffalo, both Black & White Rhino, Hippopotamus, Crocodile, and Elephant; we were accompanied by an armed ranger at all times – naturally this somewhat limited our ability as we had to remain in a single group.
My best find for the day was a Pale Ranger (Kedestes callicles).

Small Orange Acrea (Hyalites eponina).

Giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis).

Plains Zebra (Equus quagga) holding up traffic.

The early evening trip back to the campsite brought me my first ever (albeit fleeting) glimpse of a White Rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum).

Day two started early- 4.30am or so, as we had to get ready, collect our ranger Joseph, and make the approx. two hour drive to the Umfolozi end of the park before starting our surveying day. Apart from incidental records while driving, our first major stop was a small hilltop south of Mpila camp. This was climbed and produced a number of new species for our list including four Emperor species – Foxy (Charaxes jasius), Pearl-spotted (Charaxes jahlusa), Giant (Charaxes castor). The fourth Emperor was either a Demon Emperor (Charaxes phaeus) or Van Son’s Emperor (Charaxes vansoni). The males of the species appear identical and the collected specimen awaits genitalic dissection for final identification.

Foxy Emperor (Charaxes jasius).

Pearl-spotted (Charaxes jahlusa).

Other interesting species included Buff-tipped Skipper (Netrobalane canopus), Pale Hairtail (Anthene butleri), Black Pie (Tuxentius melaena), Striped Policeman (Coeliades forestan), and Wandering Donkey (Acraea neobule).

Black Pie (Tuxentius melaena)

Driving back to Mpila, along the road between junctions 21 and 22, perhaps the most exciting record of the survey was made. A single male Lilac Tip (Colotis celimene) was seen exhibiting its typical behaviour of slowly flying in circles 3-4m up close to a tall tree. Unfortunately an attempt to secure it as a voucher specimen failed. This may have been the first record for Kwa-Zulu Natal. We returned to the spot on a number of occasions in the following days without spotting it. These return trips did produce some interesting species however, including: Silver-spotted Grey (Crudaria leroma), Pale Ranger (Kedestes callicles), and my best find of the day, Ella’s Bar (Cigaritis ella).

While not part of the survey, a stop at Mpila Camp produced an adult Peach Moth (Egybolis vaillantina) and lots of spectacular caterpillars.

Peach Moth (Egybolis vaillantina)

Peach Moth Caterpillar (Egybolis vaillantina)

That day produced my best sightings of White Rhinoceros:

White Rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum).

Traps set back at camp produced Green-veined Emperor (Charaxes candiope), Pearl Emperor (Charaxes varanes), White-barred Emperor (Charaxes brutus), and a single Evening Brown (Melanitis leda); all attracted to the bait of fermented fruit.


Read Full Post »