Issue 10 ~ January 2019

The monthly newsletter of the Lower Breede River Conservancy Trust

The Mole Snake

Rule # 1: NEVER interfere with a snake in any way if you are not 100% sure what it is.

Cape cobras are easily and often mistaken for mole snakes, and if you are at all familiar with the distinction between these two snakes you’ll know exactly why this could be a serious problem. Cape cobras are South Africa’s most venomous cobra. Mole snakes on the other hand, although they can give a painful bite, are non-venomous. Mole snakes are commonly encountered in Witsand, but unfortunately are often run over by cars or killed outright.


Most Western Cape adult mole snake specimens are black. Individuals vary from black to light brown or even brick red, while the juveniles have bright markings. There is often confusion when it comes to juvenile mole snakes. Most people tend assume that any small brown snake found in their garden is simply a young mole snake, these however are often the common slug‑eater; a harmless and inoffensive species which plays a useful role in the suburban garden by preying on snails and slugs.

This snake is not aggressive, non-venomous and will always attempt to move off if encountered. If cornered and provoked it will hiss, strike and if restrained will attempt to bite. The bite is powerful and the teeth may inflict painful cuts, but this is not serious as there is no venom.


This species is a major predator of mice, rats and mole-rats and thus a very useful species to have in agricultural and urban areas. This makes them beneficial to farmers in the Witsand area as they help control the rodent population in the area. This snake is a good burrower and spends much time underground where it finds its rodent prey. Their muscular build and pointed snout make them adept at pushing themselves through sandy burrows after their prey which consists primarily of golden moles and mole/dune rats.


Males engage in combat during the breeding season in spring. The female gives birth to live young and sometimes in very large litters of 25-40 and even up to 95. This snake is active above ground during spring and may be relatively common in suitable habitats like coastal sands with large populations of mole-rats.

Conservation Status:

Not listed. The Mole Snake is protected under the Western Cape Nature Conservation Act as a protected species (Appendix II).

Next time you encounter a mole snake, please let it pass by unharmed.

The bag limit and you

The lack of awareness regarding the relevant fishery regulations often leads to non-compliance which is impacting the fishery and conservation management in the Breede River Estuary.

To legally go fishing one must be in possession of a valid recreational angling permit. This permit is available from your local post office and entitles you to catch fish for your own use only and does not allow you to sell or trade your catch. The same applies to bait collection within the Breede and it is also illegal to buy your bait from informal sellers. There is a separate permit for using a throw net to collect live bait. Furthermore, should you wish to fish from a vessel the skipper of that vessel must be in possession of a recreational fishing permit endorsed for recreational fishing from a vessel.

Limits are set as to the total number of fish allowed per day per angler (your bag limit) and size limits (often near breeding size for fish) with some species recording a closed season e.g. Elf and Galjoen.

Fishermen may be in possession of no more than 10 fish per person per day, but this cumulative quota is subject to the specific species regulations e.g. a fisherman may have 10 fish but can only have 5 Grunter, 1 Kob and 4 Elf. However, bait fish such as mullet has a daily limit of 50 fish with no size limit.

The Regulations in Government Notice R 329, Gazette No. 27453 dated 6 April 2005, defines a bag limit as:

"bag limit" means the maximum number of fish, either in respect of individual species or of total catch of fish which may be:

a.) caught on any one day, or

b.) kept in the possession or control of any person.

The limits differ between species and are set according to available scientific information regarding growth rates, the status of the fish stock and their susceptibility to over-fishing by DAFF (Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries). Many recreationally important fish are severely overfished with Dusky Kob (considered vulnerable), Leervis and White Steenbras (considered endangered) fish stocks considered collapsed (click the button below to read the fish stock profiles).

These regulations are not trying to negatively impact an anglers fishing experience but instead promote long term protection so in 10 years from now large Dusky Kob can still be caught in the Breede River Estuary. The regulations are only as good as DAFF’s ability to control them and the willingness of anglers to abide by them.

Keep yourself informed. Below are links to the MLRA Act and the latest DAFF Marine Recreational Activity Brochure.

Limit your catch, don’t catch your limit!

Passing the torch

Farewell Tasmyn!

It was with heavy hearts that we bid farewell to Tasmyn Taylor in January. Her great energy and enthusiasm has transformed and expanded our conservation efforts and strengthened our partnerships with other conservation organisations.

Tasmyn is back at NMU Saasveld completing her Baccalaureus Technologiae. But that is not the last we will see of her, as her research paper will be on the health of the Breede River Estuary.

The trustees and staff of the LBRCT wish her all the best, and look forward to her next visit!

Welcome Craig!

Joining us and taking over the conservation torch from Tasmyn is Craig Midgley.

Craig received his Bachelor of Science degree in Ichthyology and Entomology, and Masters in Fisheries Science from Rhodes university.

Before joining us Craig worked with SANCCOB, Tenikwa Wildlife Rehabilitation and Awareness Centre and Nature's Valley Trust.

Craig is an avid angler who enjoys the marine environment, and also a keen birder.

No January Water Quality Run

It's a lemon ...


Unfortunately our probe starting giving problems toward the end of December and we had to request a new one from the Department of Water Affairs. It was supposed to have arrived during the third week of January, but the couriers could not find Witsand. After 3 weeks of failed delivery attempts, we finally managed to get it mid February.

The new probe is now calibrated and ready to go, and we will have the February results ready in the next issue.

Bird counts

Summer birding

What a great start to the new year for our bird monitoring survey. We saw 862 birds from 44 different species. The most abundant species were the common-ringed plovers (244 birds) followed by South African Shelducks (137 birds) and Egyptian Geese (79 birds). This shows the importance of the Breede Estuary mudflats to migrant waders and other waterfowl. A must see for any birding enthusiasts.

African black swift1
African Palm Swift1
African Spoonbill2
Barn Swallow4
Bar-tailed Godwit1
Black Oystercatcher4
Blacksmith Lapwing30
Black-winged Stilt8
Blue Crane2
Cape Bulbul2
Cape Cormorant4
Cape Turtle Dove14
Caspian Tern2
Common Greenshank78
Common Sandpiper1
Common Swift1
Common Tern9
Common-ringed Plover244
Curlew Sandpiper3
Domestic Geese3
Egyptian Goose79
Grey Heron8
Grey Plover50
Hadeda Ibis7
Kelp Gull16
Laughing Dove1
Little Egret3
Little swamp warbler1
Pied Avocet1
Red Bishop7
Sandwich tern6
South African Shelduck137
Spur-winged Goose14
Terek Sandpipers3
White Stork2
White-breasted Cormorant1
White-necked Raven2
White-rumped Swift1
White-throated Swallow6
Wood Sandpiper1
Yellow-billed Duck13
Grand Total:862

Marine debris

Marine debris during the month at three of the four sites were heavily impacted by various sizes of plastic: Main Beach (22%), Blokke to Tidal Pool (32%) and Gov. Slip to Skuitbaai (72%). Broken glass bottles, particularly beer bottles accounted for 25% of the litter at Oysterbeds to Groenpunt.

Fishing related marine debris (fishing line, rope, cotton spools) was an important component recorded on Main Beach (15%) and Blokke (26%). Cigarette butts were in the top 3 off all the litter collected on Main beach (29%) and Gov Slip to Skuitbaai (10.83%). In total approximately 9kg of litter was collected during the 4 Witsand survey days in January.

Marine debris collected in January


Plastic Pieces 


Glass Pieces 


Cigarette Butts   


Fishing Gear

Thank you for reading

We hope you enjoyed this months' issue. Should you have any feedback, questions, or matters you would like us to cover in a future issue, please do not hesitate to write to us at news@breede-river.org. 


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