The Little Guys

By Tristan Egremont-Lee

These three animals are under one group  – REPTILES! This name often sends shivers up one’s spine – the thought of snakes or even just the cold blooded is often too much to bear! But these are still important animals and none of them are really bad! For example tortoises…

Tortoises

These are one of Zimbabwe’s most loved creatures – who couldn’t find their calm, placid nature adorable? They are also valuable to the environment, not because they are a key prey species (after all, who could get at them through that amazing shell?!), but more because of their own diet. Tortoises keep lots of plants under control. They will typically destroy an entire plant as they feed, enjoying a range of fungi, succulents and grasses. Some of their favorite foods might be seen as a nuisance in your garden!

FUN FACTS

The Kalahari tent tortoises shell was used by bushmen as snuff boxes.

The Bell’s hinged tortoise Kinixys belliana is probably Zimbabwe’s most common tortoise and family pet. They can live up to 22 years old and their shell shape changes in various different climates as part of adaptation.

Another calm reptile that some still dislike, no matter what they do, is the chameleon.

Chameleons

Chameleons range far and wide and therefore have a wide variety of diet. They are commonly thought to only eat flies, but they can eat a range of prey, such as preying mantis, butterflies, grasshoppers, cockroaches, ants and more! They are therefore an apex predator for the insect world and can outgun all of them with that lightening fast tongue, along with their commando disguise! So if you are a person who doesn’t like bugs, you must surely give them your vote of support!

Chameleons are themselves food for many predatory birds and mammals.

FUN FACTS

A chameleon’s tongue travels at 6 metres per second and is twice the length of their body!

Flat necked chameleon chameleo dilepis our predominant species in Zimbabwe.

The next subject’s attraction might take some convincing – snakes!

Snakes

I may not be able to convert everybody to love snakes, but I will try! Starting with explaining what good they do. There is of course a wide variety of snakes from harmless to very dangerous and because of this they eat a huge variety of prey. The Queen snake of north America even eats crayfish! Importantly, for us who live around Harare, they keep another large group of animals in check particularly rodents – the favorite food for many snakes. For me, keeping rat and mice numbers down is a must! Just think, if there were no snakes, your house could be overrun by rodent pests!

So, I am not asking you to necessarily keep a snake as a pet, but I am asking you to not just kill a snake on sight, but preferably call a snake catcher to remove it!

FUN FACTS

The venom of the Brazilian lancehead viper is being used to treat high blood pressure, approved by the US Food and Drug Administration. [a]

The author relocating a small specimen of Zimbabwe’s largest snake – the African Rock python python sebea, which can grow to 6 metres in length- © NZiRA Travel Zimbabwe, Issue 11

[a] Sources: https://healthypets.mercola (archive venom/toxins)

For more travel articles visit: www.nzira.co.zw

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