While on the topic of snakes, we should talk about Mtunzini’s population of Gaboon Adders Bitis gabonica (often called Gaboon Vipers). These massive and incredibly handsome adders have lost a great deal of their habitat through transformation for agriculture and residential developments. To the extent that they are classified as Near Threatened in the Atlas and Red List of Reptiles of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland. As far as I can gather, Mtunzini’s Gaboons were translocated there from Dukuduku Forest near St Lucia, starting from 1995. A 2003 article in the journal Koedoe summarises the situation:
“In 1995, Ezemvelo KwaZulu/Natal Wildlife (EKZNW) approved a project to translocate as many B. gabonica as possible from Dukuduku Forest, to Umlalazi Nature Reserve, since Dukuduku Forest was under serious threat from habitat degradation. Although outside [the Gaboon Adder’s] known range, Umlalazi was considered suitable habitat and was under conservation management. Initially the aims of the project were to capture and translocate 80 snakes. By this time  approximately 200 snakes had been caught, paid for and translocated. The project was terminated due to, among others, concerns about the suitability of Umlalazi, the survival of translocated snakes, and the creation of a market (at R200 each) for a rare animal. The remaining snakes in captivity were released on the eastern shores of Lake St. Lucia.”
Interestingly, the translocation project initially seemed to have failed, with “no sightings of B. gabonica have been reported in the reserve subsequent to the project“. However, fast forward a few years, and Mtunzini’s Gaboon Adder population appears to have exploded! The snakes are now frequently sighted, even on suburban roads on the outskirts of town. An overly dramatic newspaper report in 2008 states that “Gaboon Adders are taking over the back gardens of Mtunzini, and residents are running scared. The snakes have slithered their way from a neighbouring forest into the urban area, and residents have every reason to be worried.” Whatever the case may be, Mtunzini is probably one of the most reliable spots to encounter this spectacular snake. That is easier said than done though, as they have superb camoflage and often bury themselves in leaf litter with only the head protruding.
ABOVE: Whether or not Mtunzini’s introduced population of Gaboon Adders are strictly ‘tickable’ is up to you to decide. But that didn’t stop me looking! As you can see, these snakes are extremely difficult to spot unless they move or happen to cross the road. Photo by Nick Evans.
ABOVE: But herping in Mtunzini is by no means restricted to Gaboon Adders. Floodplains here are home to the localised and Endangered Pickersgill’s Reed Frog Hyperolius pickersgilli (male shown here). Photo by Nick Evans.
ABOVE: Natal Tree Frogs Leptopelis natalensis, must rank as some of our most attractive frogs. They call and mate in trees, but descend to the ground to bury their eggs in the sand. Photo by Nick Evans.
ABOVE: And finally there’s this little phantom, the Bush Squeker Arthroleptis wahlbergi. After even a few drops of rain (or in misty conditions) these tiny frogs start producing their high, wispy weeping sound from the leaf litter of coastal bush. The trick is to actually spot one among the dead leaves… Photo by Nick Evans.