Wildlife of the Karoo
Written by Lucy Mars Putter
The Karoo is not only a beautiful picturesque place filled with quaint little towns and welcoming people it is also home to a rich variety of wildlife species that rely on a healthy eco system in order to thrive. One of these species being the most endangered terrestrial mammal in southern Africa, the Riverine Rabbit however the this not the only animal that calls the Karoo home in fact several species of animals and plants are found exclusively in the Karoo.
To mention just a few species that call the Karoo home – The Karoo Padloper a species of tortoise endemic to the Nama-Karoo region, The African Rock Pipit , Cape Grysbok, Robertson Dwarf Chameleon , Aardwolf and the Leopard. Many remarkable plant species such as Renosterveld, Spekboom veld and Karoo Veld also occur in the Karoo.
Fracking is not only a threat to humans it is also a threat to the creatures that rely on minimal noise, light and water pollution to survive. Just like humans animals cannot survive with polluted water sources especially animals that call water home. When toxic chemicals leak into water systems the chemicals can cause algal bloom which can ultimately lead to oxygen depleted water that can no longer hold life such as fish and amphibians. Fish and amphibians are a food source that several other species rely on in order to survive.
Water pollution is not the only threat that is a risk with the fracking monster, noise and light pollution come along too. Noise pollution alone has been seen to cause animals to alter their natural behaviour and to relocate entirely. These changes in an animal’s natural behaviour can have serious effects on the ecosystem as a whole. For example excessive noise can make it incredibly hard for animals to avoid predators, locate mates, communicate with others, find food and reproduce. In studies around the world it has been noticed that several species of birds have in fact altered their vocalisations and frequencies as an adjustment to the noise pollution in order to be heard and find a mate. This is an unnatural process that can lead to fewer offspring.
Scrub Robins in the western United States were seen to leave noisy areas around gas wells where like fracking rigs loud compressors were constantly running. The study’s lead author, Clinton Francis, said, ‘We’re starting to see that noise may actually be a big problem, because [it] acts as a form of sensory pollution, forcing animals to adapt their calls to be heard over it, or leave the area altogether’. This study also found that once the scrub robins had fled the noisy areas the forests started to decline as the birds played a vital role in the forests ecosystem.
Further studies across the globe have found similar results in bats that rely on acoustics and echolocation In order to locate flying insects which they eat. It was seen in areas with greater noise pollution that bats had a lower success rate in hunting.
Frogs who rely on calling to entice females have also suffered; frogs in noise polluted areas have been seen to have had a harder time finding a mate to reproduce with due to the excessive noise.
Nocturnal animals also face a great dilemma when it comes to light pollution. Many nocturnal birds such as the spotted eagle owl rely on the light of the moon and stars to hunt. By introducing unnatural light like the light from fracking rigs we risk disrupting their natural hunting methods. It is not just birds who rely on star and moon light creatures as small as dung beetles have been found to use the stars and the moon to help them circumnavigate the land.
All these incredibly different species have one thing in common they face the same threats on a day to day basis. However some are in more trouble than others – The critically endangered Riverine Rabbit. This elusive bun is endemic to the Karoo and scientists estimate that there are only about 250 mature riverine rabbits left in the wild. This beautiful creature has a lot going against it without the fracking monster. This beautiful rabbit is facing extinction due to Hunters, domestic dogs, traps and habitat destruction. The Riverine rabbit relies heavily on healthy river systems in order to survive, something that the fracking monster is an imminent threat to. They use the healthy, soft top soil of dry river beds to create their burrows. These rabbits are so important that they are now seen as a symbol of a healthy river ecosystem on farms.
What makes these rabbits unique is not only their beautiful white eye ring but the fact that they have only offspring per year. These rabbits do not need further habitat destruction and river pollution created by the fracking monster.
Each plant, insect and animal species is crucial and has an incredibly important role to play. Our wildlife has enough threats as it is already from illegal hunting, habitat lost, climate change and pollution. By allowing fracking to occur in the Karoo it is only furthering the plight of South Africa’s wildlife. By allowing this monster to consumer the Karoo it is not only damaging people’s lives and livelihoods but it is also signing the death warrant of several species.
Written and contributed by
Lucy Mars Putter
Karoo & Western Cape Species Photo Gallery
Karoo & Western Cape Species List
Acontias melagris – Cape Legless Skink
Afroedura Karroica – Karoo Flat gecko
Agama atra – Southern Rock Agama
Varanus albigularis – Rock monitor
Amietophrynus rangeri – Raucous toad
Aspidelaps lubricus – Coral Snake
Bitis arietans – Puff Adder
Bitis caudalis – Horned Adder
Boaedon capensis – Brown House Snake
Bradypodion damaranum – Knysna dwarf Chameleon
Bufo gariepensis – Karoo Toad
Causus rhombeatus – Rhombic Night adder
Chersina angulata – Angulate tortoise
Chondrodactylus angulifer – Common Ground Gecko
Chondrodactylus bibroni – Bibrons Gecko
Crotaphopeltis hotamboeia – Herald Snake
Dispholidus typus – BoomSlang
Duberria lutrix – Common Slug Eater
Goggia lineata – Striped Dwarf Leaf Toed Gecko
Homopus areolatus – Common Pad Loper ( Parrot Beaked)
Karusasaurus polyzonus – Karoo Karusa Lizard
Lamprophis guttatus – Spotted Rock Snake
Lycodonomorphus rufulus – Common Brown Water Snake
Lycodonomorphus inornatus – Olive Ground Snake
Naja nivea – Cape Cobra
Pachydactylus capensis – Cape Gecko
Pachydactylus geitje – Ocellated Gecko
Pachydactylus mariquensis – Quartz Gecko
Pachydactylus purcelli – Purcell’s Gecko
Psammophis notostictus – Karoo whip snake
Pelomedusa subrufa – Marsh terrapin
Psammobates tentorius – Tent Tortoise
Pseudocordylus microlepidotus fasciatus – Karoo Crag Lizard
Stigmochelys pardalis – Leopard tortoise
Strongylopus grayii – Gray’s Clicking Stream Frog
Tetradactylus seps – Short Legged Seps
Trachylepis capensis – Cape Skink
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