RARE ‘DWARF’ DISCOVERED ON SWARTBERG PASS

A rare dwarf has been discovered on the Swartberg Pass. A team of experts, including Elton le Roux, Gamkaberg Conservation Area’s nature conservator, and researcher, Devi Stuart-Fox, a post doctoral student from the University of the Witwatersrand, recently roamed the area at night in search of this dwarf chameleon. “The species is so new that it doesn’t yet have a name,” said Elton. “It is being described by Port Elizabeth Museum’s herpetologist, W. R. Branch. Bradypodion atromantana, which means ‘black mountain’ is being considered to honour the Swartberg, the only place where the species is known to occur,” said Elton. The team collected 17 male and 14 female specimens. All collecting had to be done at night because the creatures are more visible in the dark. Devi collected specimens and tail clips for description on a previous visit to the Swartberg Nature Reserve. She is studying colouration and offensive displays of all dwarf chameleon species in South Africa. “After photographing and noting relevant data, each chameleon is released at exactly where it was captured to minimise stress.”

‘MAKING A MARK’ FROM ROCK ART TO GRAFFITI

South Africa is home to a great diversity of rock art. This includes far more than the well-known San or ‘Bushman’ shamanistic rock art, covering a period from 30 000 years ago to the early 20th century. It includes the recently identified geometric finger-paintings and rough-pecked engravings of the Khoekhoen (Khoi Khoi) herders; the magical and militaristic imagery of the 19th century Korana raiders, the political protests and initiation engravings of black tribes and a wide range of images created by European soldiers, prisoners and labourers. “Even today’s general ‘graffiti’, is a way of “marking” the land and it stems from these traditions which need to be more clearly understood,” says Sven Ouzman of the University of California at Berkley. He will soon be back in South Africa to deliver a lecture entitled “How Rock Art Helps Us “See”: 70 000 years of place-making in Southern Africa. Illustrated by slides and sound effects, it will be given at Wildebeest Kuil Rock Art Centre on the outskirts of Kimberley on July l, 2005. “Marking is a multi-sensorial process that goes beyond vision to include touch, sound, taste and even electro-magnetism. To understand what these diverse rock arts meant to their makers, we need to link them to associated archaeologies, oral histories and ethnographies, as well as to specific landscapes and to each other. We also need to study the effect of change over the last 2 000 years, and more specifically over the 350 years on images and sites. And, we need to include this knowledge in our educational, tourism and conservation efforts,” said Sven. “Rock art is not simply an artefact of the past. It is also part of the fleeting present; and a hint of what possible forms our future may take.”

HEADS YOU WIN!

An amusing story about Rev General Paul Roux and the naming of a town in his honour had visitors to the Bloemfontein synagogue smiling. One of the streets in the vicinity of the Synagogue of the United Hebrew Congregations was named in honour of this Dutch Reformed dominee of Anglo Boer War fame. Some people knew that, but few knew how the little Free State town Paul Roux got its name. Rev Paul Roux, who is buried in Beaufort West, once also served the church in Senekal. The story goes that when another little town was established nearby townsfolk could not decide between naming it Paul Roux, as a tribute the minister of the church most attended, or calling it Du Plessisville, after a highly respected citizen. Eventually they took a piece of dolerite, scratched “PR” on one side and “DPV” on the other. They then asked yet another respected citizen, Koos Smit, to “toss” as high and as far as he could. He gave a great heave and sent it spinning through the air. It landed with “PR” facing upwards. So, without further ado, the town became Paul Roux.

MAJOR BANK JOINS EFFORT TO SAVE SPECIES FROM EXTINCTION

Central Karoo farmers have banded themselves into a network of conservancies in an effort to save the critically endangered riverine rabbit. Their effort was backed by Rand Merchant Bank, which joined the main partners of Endangered Wildlife Trust’s (EWT’s) Riverine Rabbit Working Group and funded all road signage for the conservancies, that now link two provinces. There is one in the Northern Cape and two in the Western Cape and together they cover almost 3 000 kilometres and 200 000 ha of private land. To date 38 sign boards have been erected by unemployed members of previously disadvantaged communities in the area. “The aim of the conservancies is to try to save this species, which is on the brink of extinction, and its habitat. Less than 250 mature individuals exist in the wild today,” said Riverine Rabbit Working Group chairman Dr Vicky Ahlmann. “All free roaming dogs and gin traps have been banned throughout the conservancies and they have been opened to further the studies of the species.”

THESE ‘IMMIGRANTS’ HAVE SETTLED WELL

Many foreign birds have become quite at home in South Africa. “Among these “immigrants” are the House Sparrow, which is well known throughout Western Europe and Southern Asia,” writes expert Peter Ginn. “These came to KwaZulu Natal, from India. They flourished as the urban area grew and expanded their territory along roads and railway lines. These took them all the way through Botswana to Zimbabwe by the late 1950s. Today they are seen in most towns and cities. The European or Common Starling, another immigrant, was introduced at Cape Town and spread eastwards to East London. They move about in highly mobile flocks, searching for fruit and insects. Other ‘immigrants’ which have flourished in South Africa are the Indian Mynah and House Crow,” said Peter.

TEETH TELL IT ALL

Experts tell us we are what we eat. Physical anthropologist Sireen El Zaatari from Stony Brook University in New York feels we always have been. She has spent time researching evidence of past diet reflected in micro wear patterns on teeth. “Shireen will deliver a talk on her work at Wildebeestkuil Rock Art Centre outside Kimberley in October,” writes archaeologist David Morris in the Centre’s Newsletter.

NO NEED TO KILL AND BOTTLE

Special surveys of the herpetological populations of Swartberg mountain nature reserves have yielded interesting information. Gamkaberg Conservation Area’s nature conservator, Elton le Roux, reports that since August 2002, he and field rangers in Gamkaberg, Swartberg, Outeniqua, Goukamma and Keurboom reserves have observed 838 of the 1 232 species listed. They have photographed 249 and collected genetic material and tail clips from 145. “These methods allow us to gather a great deal of valuable information without it becoming necessary to kill and bottle each interesting creature we see. Among the 70 species we have studied and recorded are 16 amphibians and 54 reptiles. These genetic samples are being analysed by the Universities of Stellenbosch and Qua Qua,” said Elton, who still aims to study the more than 87 herpetological species in the Gouritz Region.

RIVER HEALTH UNDER THE MICROSCOPE

The health of seasonal rivers in the Gamkaberg Conservation Area is being closely monitored. Water health is of prime importance, so samples were taken from ten sites. These lay along the Bos River, Assegaaybos River at Rooiberg and Groenkloof and Waterkloof at Groenefontein. Four sites on private property were included, as well as sites under CapeNature’s stewardship, on the Gamka and Olifants Rivers, and two State-owned sites in Paardenberg catchment area. The aim is to ensure that conservation programmes in outlying areas are on track and that erosion problems are eliminated. An illegal road, gully and pumping station were discovered during this inspection. The road has been rehabilitated, the pump, which affected water flow, will be removed and other damage repaired.

WHOOPS – IT’S SCHUTZ NOT SHULTZ

Clarence de Jager’s partner in the Colesberg legal practise was of Schutz and not Schultz as as reported in Round-up No 20 of May 2005. Historic researcher Johan Loock reports that Wilhelmus Lodewicus Fourie Schutz, born on April 18, 1873, was a direct descendant of Johannes Augustus Schutz, a parson from the Netherlands, who arrived in South Africa with his family in 1806. W L F Schutz later moved to Colesberg where he became a partner in the firm of Schutz and De Jager. He died on November 4, 1918 and is buried in Colesberg.

TOP HONOURS FOR BOER WAR EXPERT

Years of research into the Anglo-Boer War have resulted in Taffy Shearing graduating with a PhD in History from University of Stellenbosch. In summing up her thesis, The Cape Rebel of the S A War, 1899-1902, Prof Albert Grundlingh, her promoter, said it was unlikely that this thesis would be surpassed. Taffy says she now looks forward to submitting articles to academic journals and rewriting her thesis on the Cape Rebels into an easier read and publishing it with pictures. Her book on Gideon Scheepers, part of her Commando Series, is also being reprinted.

THE WEATHER THE LEAST OF HIS PROBLEMS …

“If only Captain Lawrence Edward Grace Oates, could have seen the future. Much worse than bad Karoo weather was in store for him,” writes Richard Tomlinson after reading Round-up No 20. During the Anglo-Boer War, on March 6, 1901, Oates was at the head of a 15-man Inniskilling Dragoon Guards reconnaissance patrol – one of three sent out from Aberdeen, to locate the Boers. It was “too small to put up a successful fight and too large to escape observation,” said Major G F MacMunn,” At 07h30, the patrol had been out on the old Aberdeen – Beaufort West road for two hours, when it was ambushed, write Sue Limb and Patrick Cordingley in Captain Oates – Soldier and Explorer. “An explosion of rifle fire broke out, two scouts, two soldiers and two horses fell. A scout was captured. Oates and his men took cover in a dry river bed. Rifle fire continued for hours. Oates managed to send some men back to town, but stayed with his men, some of whom were wounded. He refused to abandon the casualties and soon found himself surrounded by Boers and vastly outnumbered. The Boers sent the scout they had captured to demand the patrol’s surrender. This was declined. The fight continued.” At 10h30 a Boer carrying a flag of truce brought a note signed by Commandant Fouché demanding surrender. “We’re here to fight, not surrender,” replied Oates, earning himself the nickname “No-surrender Oates.” Firing continued till noon, then suddenly the Boers dispersed. A parting shot hit Oates in the thigh, shattering the bone. He ordered his fit men back to Aberdeen and waited six hours without water for a rescue party to arrive. Dr Whyte, who accompanied them, had no anaesthetic, yet he set Oates’s thigh using splints made from an old packing case from a nearby farm. A bumpy six-mile journey back to town across dreadful terrain, followed. “No one can describe what Oates must have suffered,” wrote Herbert Dixon, a man with whom he’d shared a cabin on the troopship Idaho. “I have never met a better soldier, but I fear it was here that Titus received his death blow. He was never physically quite the same again.”

… WORSE WAS TO COME

Polar exploration history was changed by a single bullet fired in South Africa during the Anglo-Boer War. Eleven years after this Lawrence Edward Grace Oates, known as ‘Laurie’ to his family and ‘Titus’ to his regimental buddies, joined Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s famous South Pole expedition. They called him ‘Soldier,’ and his responsibility was the horses, an ancient, half-lame, decrepit bunch, according to Sue Limb and Patrick Cordingley in Captain Oates – Soldier and Explorer. Bad weather, poor food, and the mental strain of keeping these animals on the go took their toll. Often, while others were in their tents Oates was out in the full blast of a blizzard trying to keep the animals alive. He got no rest and some said, “suffered as much as the ponies.” The old Boer War wound, which had left him with a limp and a left leg an inch shorter than the right, gave him trouble. In Antarctica his feet were constantly wet. They troubled him greatly, his limp increased. “It is possible that he was also suffering from scurvy,” writes Sue. “Pain in the legs is a sure sign of this disease which causes scar tissue from old wounds to dissolve.” By the time the Polar party set off Oates was tired. They never recovered from the blow of discovering on January 18, 1912, that Roald Amundsen had beaten them to the Pole. They were in poor physical condition. Dr Wilson reported “Evans’s finger nails are falling off and Titus’s toes are black, his nose and forehead are dead yellow (a sure sign of frost bite.)” Evans died on February 18, the weather worsened and so did the men’s stamina. By March Oates could barely walk. “His suffering was horrifying,” writes Sue. “Gangrene had set in. He had frostbite on his hands, and it was taking him two hours to get his footgear on. The pain was intolerable, and he knew he had become a handicap.” On March 18 he awoke in a blizzard. “I am just going outside, and I may be some time,” said Oates, and because it took him two hours to get his boots on, he stepped out in a pitiless, frozen, icy world, to die in his socks. Oates was never seen again. His body was never found. Scot, Bowers and Wilson died of exhaustion and starvation two weeks later.

Note: History has another Titus Oates, a clergyman, who revealed a plot to kill Charles II in 1678 and re-instate Catholicism in Britain. The “Popish Plot” spread panic. Oates was convicted of perjury in 1685.

TINY CHURCH DRAWS THE CROWD

Tafelberg Railway Station, near Grahamstown, hummed with excitement on February 15, 1894. Farmers, railway workers and visitors from surrounding towns, eagerly awaited dignitaries from across the Karoo who were to consecrate a new church. The Grahamstown Diocesan Magazine of March 1894, reports that the bishop and clergy robed at the station master’s house while they waited for the Alicedale train. It arrived promptly on schedule at midday. The Bishop then solemnly led a stately procession down the dusty road to the church. Once there everyone walked once around the building chanting Psalm 24. In the procession were Rev W.H Ramsbottom (Colesberg), Rev A Lomax (Steynsburg), Rev Robert J Lee (Middelburg), Archdeacon Llewellyn (Cradock), Rev W.C. Wallis (Rural Dean) and F. R. Harbord, curate of Jagersfontein, who acted as the Bishops’ chaplain. The procession stopped at the front door of the church, which was kept closed until church warden, C L Flemmer, had read the Petition to Consecrate. The Bishop and clergy then entered singing Hymn 215 as they moved down the aisle to take up seats in the sedilia on each side of the chancel. Each parishioner was handed an Order of Service so that they would participate. The Bishop delivered a short address before dedicating the church to St Lawrence. After the service church warden Flemmer and his wife entertained the guests, most of whom had come from Middleburg. The dressed stone church was of early Gothic design. According to the parish magazine it had a corrugated iron roof and seated 80. “Architect White-Cooper of Grahamstown has given it an apsidal east end i.e. an apse with five sides instead of the usual three. Distinguishing features are loftiness in proportion to length and breadth, thick walls, and narrow windows. When viewed from the outside one would think there may be a deficiency of light, but ingenious construction, combined with window height not only allows sufficient light to enter, but also causes it to be pleasantly diffused throughout the interior.” Fay Lea, who is researching the Flemmers in South Africa, discovered this story.

SYNAGOGUE HAS ROOTS IN A HOUSE

The first and possibly the most important Jewish trader in the Orange Free State had ties with the Karoo. He was Isaac Bauman, who came to South Africa in 1837 from Hesse-Cassel. Isaac first settled in Graaff Reinet, where he instantly started trading. Louis Herrman’s History of the Jews in South Africa claims that Isaac was an active trader in South Africa even before the first Mosenthal arrived at the Cape. Herrman also says that before 1870, many Jewish traders with Hesse Cassel connections had set up businesses in virtually all Free State towns. In n 1847, after the Battle of Boomplaats, Isaac moved to Bloemfontein, where he set up businesses and lived for many years. For quite some time Isaac was the principal merchant in the Orange Free State. It was in his home in Bloemfontein that the first meeting of Free State Jews for Devine Service took place on Yom Kippur, 1871. Jews from every village attended. Soon regular services were being held at Isaac’s house. He twice served as mayor of Bloemfontein and was a director of the National Bank. When British Sovereignty was withdrawn from the Orange Free State Isaac refused to relinquish his British citizenship and also refused to accept £600 offered by the government as compensation for the surrender of his rights. Isaac was married in Hesse-Cassel but ten of his children were born in the Free State before 1873. His son, Gustave, who was born at Bloemfontein in 1858, became Surveyor General and was responsible for Bloemfontein’s attractive lay-out

RUN IN WITH THE LAW ENDS IN MARRIAGE

It is quite amazing where Cupid’s arrows land. In January 1822, a 19-year old man adventuring alone on horseback through the Eastern Cape innocently rode into Cradock, unaware that this was going to change his life for ever. He reports stopping for a while in the tiny town and seeing only about half a dozen people. He also had difficulty finding suitable accommodation, he said, and was “involved in an incident with an overzealous policeman.” But this led to romance and it wasn’t long before young Mr Montgomery decided to marry the policeman’s 17-year old daughter. The service, conducted by Rev John Evans, took place in the local Dutch Reformed Church. Young Montgomery bought an erf and tried to settle down, but it wasn’t all plain sailing according to the Cradock 150th Anniversary Brochure. However, after a few problems, one of which concerned his orchard, which “was scorned by other inhabitants,” Montgomery changed his occupation and “ended up a successful tinker and hardware merchant.”


It is better to deserve honours and not have them than to have them and not deserve them.”

Samuel Langhorne Clemens (Mark Twain), born in 1835, joined a newspaper as a reporter in 1861. His pseudonym is a Mississippi river man’s term describing water safe enough for navigation.