Dragons and Damsels

-Jess Oosthuyse

The dragonfly skirted across the glistening water, wings dancing in the light. The near-magical creature oblivious to my presence as it hovered above the crystal pond, the colours of its translucent body reflecting from the water as it scanned the surface for its next meal.


If you have ever witnessed the hypnotic flight of a dragonfly, you will understand only too well their beauty, grace and agility. Not only are these creatures strikingly beautiful, but are also said to be some of the most ancient insect species on earth with the earliest fossils dating back over 250 million years ago.

Both dragonflies and damselflies fall under the order “Odonata” and are easily distinguished from other insects by their large eyes and elongated bodies. These carnivorous insects are exceptional bio-indicators, meaning that their diversity can be used as an indicator of the quality of an ecosystem. For example, one can expect a high number of small insects, a high diversity of vascular plants, and a healthy water ecosystem where Odonata occur in high abundance.

Recently, Warwick Tarboton along with 16 other dragonfly enthusiasts conducted an Odonata survey along the Mogol and Palala rivers. This survey was conducted as part of an ongoing assessment of the biodiversity of the Waterberg “Important Biodiversity Area” (or simply, IBA). These IBA’s are areas recognized as significant for the conservation of biodiversity and have to be determined through the use of robust, standardized criteria.

The team visited a total of 42 sites of which 9 were located within Welgevonden Game Reserve.

Ornodata survey_Warwick Tarboton_Map

Map of sites along the Mogol and Phalala rivers

36 different species were spotted along the Taaibos river (the highest counted at any single river during the survey) and 31 recorded along the Sterkstroom river. At Leopard Dam, the avid adventurers also discovered two species (the Banded Skimmer and the Woodland Skimmer) that had not been recorded within the Waterberg area until now!

91 different Odonata species were located within the Waterberg region- a far greater number of species as opposed to those recorded in the Kruger National Park. The Waterberg is clearly a hub of dragon- and damselfly activity, with Welgevonden being host to a large number of these species.

Apex predators as well as the Big 5 have historically been the major attractants to game reserves. However, if one was to take a closer look, they’d notice all the small, beautiful organisms that contribute towards the overall biodiversity of a protected wildlife area. It is both the big and the small that make the bush a beautiful place to be.

Thank you Warwick Tarboton and co. for the wonderful photos and interesting report!

We’ve included some of our favourite photos taken at Welgevonden Game Reserve below.

1 CALOPTERYGIDAE Phaon iridipennis - Glistening Demoiselle - Glinsterjuffertjie m

Glistening Demoiselle spotted along the Sterkstroom and Taaibos rivers

2 CHLOROCYPHIDAE Platycypha caligata - Dancing Jewel - Dansende Juweeltjie imm m

Dancing Jewel hangs around the Starkstroom and Taaibos rivers

2 CHLOROCYPHIDAE Platycypha caligata - Dancing Jewel - Dansende Juweeltjie m1

Dancing Jewel