Life in Matopos

There were not just stones at Matopos!

As soon as we entered the park we realized that it has had patchy rainfall. It was in one of the wet areas that we saw a congregation of birds of several species. There were a few African kites, Yellow-vented bulbuls, Amethyst sunbirds, Violet backed starlings and others that I was not able to identify as they flew off. The reason for this was not the presence of a predator like a snake but flying termites or termite alates whose purpose is to start new colonies and become the future king and queen, the stuff of fables. If they survived their nuptial flight, that is!

The flying termites are well fed by the colony because their reserves need to last them until they manage to reproduce and a new colony is established. Being so fat-loaded contributes to their doom as they are slow flyers and therefore a very sought after morsel that most animals in Africa appreciate, including some people that also eats them (friends that had tried indicate their rather good nutty taste when fried in butter).

Apart from the bird vs. termites affair, the most obvious Matopos dwellers were the lizards.

We saw a few different species but the common flat lizard was, yes, the most common! The ones we saw probably belonged to Platysaurus intermedius rhodesiensis, a sub-species that inhabits the area. We saw plenty of them at Rhodes grave so the “rhodesiensis” of the name seems to make sense… At first we thought that there were two separate species: a rather astonishingly colourful one with yellow, orange and blue and another brown with cream coloured dorsal lines.

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The apparently different lizards…

They were crawling all over the rocks everywhere and some were even bold enough to come quite close to us searching for food morsels under our lunch table. It was during one of these approximations that both “species” came close and we saw that the bright coloured ones showed -at first sight- some aggression towards the duller ones. Wrong again! It immediately became apparent that we were witnesing sex among lizzards and that the two were part of the same species!

Clearly it was the lizard mating season! We watched them getting together and separate rapidly very often as the pictures badly show. Love among lizzards appeared a rather casual and sometimes rough affair. It was not rare to see the male biting the female in the head or tail to mate with her. After the event, they went their separate way or at least that is what seem to the non lizard experts!

Further reading at home confirmed that there were both members of the species that abound at the Matopos and, luckily, they are nowhere near threatened with extinction and listed as of “Least Concern” by the IUCN, for obvious reasons… Let’s hope that they continue to reproduce.



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