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Namibian Skinks


Skinks are known to have been around for millions of years with 2 genera dating as far back as the Cretaceous period of about 80 million years ago. They belong to the Family Scincidae and are a bit of a mixed bag in the lizard world. Some have limbs, others don't have any and the remainder display traces of days gone by. Skinks have a highly flexible, strong, but rigid coast and with the bonus of a small head and no distinct neck, they own the perfect armour for burrowing or hanging out in rock crevices and cracks. Ears are protected by scales and eyes are small or even absent in burrowing species. Tails are smooth, can be shed and are easily regenerated.

Most species of skink are terrestrial and active during the day. Others have tree or rock climbing abilities, usually chasing their major food source of small insects. Body temperature is maintained by a sun and shade shuttle service. Hierarchies are developed in rock dwelling, terrestrial species. Dominant male can be identified by their brilliant colours, even though most species are solitary creatures with rather dull grey and brown bodies. Females lay small clutches of soft-shelled eggs underground with others giving birth to their young.

There are 3 subfamilies that are found in southern Africa and with over 700 species present worldwide they are the 2nd most diverse group of lizards in the region (exceeded only by geckos). Greater legless and blind legless skinks belong to the subfamily Acontiinae. All members of this subfamily lack external limbs and burrow in loose sandy soil or leaf litter. Burrowing skinks belong to the subfamily Scincinae, with a reduced limb capability. Writhing, typical and snake-eyed skinks belong to the subfamily Lygosomathnae and limbs are present. There are 8 groups of skinks found in Namibia.

This is a small species with characteristics pointing to a life underground. Their eyes are barely visible, remaining as dark spots under the head shields. The body is thin and covered with large, smooth scales. Blind legless skinks burrow mostly in sandy regions and are usually found among dead bark and fallen branches beneath trees and under stones. They usually only surface when disturbed from road works, seasonal agricultural activities and flooding. Major predators include burrowing snakes such as burrowing asps, quill-snouted snakes and garter snakes.

Dwarf burrowing skinks are a species that have lost their limbs due to evolutionary progresses, even though some species have front and hind limbs with 5 toes, and others have no sign of any limbs at all. A characteristic feature are small, smooth scales that cover the body. The tail is longer than the body in species that have fully developed feet and slightly shorter than the body in legless species.

All members of this species either forage in grassland or loose leaf litter or burrow in sandy soil. Females are viviparous and give birth to between 1 to 4 babies.

Greater legless skinks are medium-sized to large (legless) skinks. A characteristic of these skinks are their elongated, moveable lower eyelids; short and stubby tail; lack of external ear openings. They are all burrowing skinks, normally living under dead logs or stones and on loose soil. To a skink they feed on small vertebrates, although larger species will eat other burrowing reptiles. Most of their moisture is obtained from their food or in the immediate soil. Females are viviparous, with a just one birthing event happening in late summer. They themselves fall prey to burrowing snakes such as the burrowing asp and other small carnivores.

Savannah burrowing skinks are small and secretive. They have 3 or 4 toes on each limb. Nothing is known of their reproductive habits.

Snake-eyed skinks are small to medium-sized skinks with five toes on each well-developed limb. Another characteristic is moveable or fixed snake-like lower eyelids, hence the name. Panaspis are found in dry and mesic savannah type habitats and are semi-burrowing and terrestrial. Females lay small clutches of soft-shelled eggs. There are 2 species of snake-eyed skinks in Namibia.

There are many species in this genus of small to large skinks, with characteristic well-developed limbs with 5 toes per limb. Other features include long, tapering tails, large eyes with a moveable eyelid distinct but sunken ear openings. Colouration is usually a field guide to their main habitat. They are active during the day and forage in rocks, trees and on the ground, emphasizing their varied locations. Insects are searched for in vegetation or under rock under-hangs and prey is seized after a quick burst of action. Most females give birth although others lay eggs. There are 12 species of typical skinks found in Namibia.

Apart from 1 species, western burrowing skinks lack external limbs. They have flattened snouts, small eyes with no eyelids. The body scales are smooth and overlap. These skinks burrow in sandy soil under leaf litter and rotting vegetables. Little is known of their reproductive habits although females are viviparous.

Writhing skinks are small to large skinks with 5 toes on each limb. They prefer a habitat of leaf litter and burrow in loose soil. They feed on small insects and larvae and females lay small clutches of soft-shelled eggs. Only 1 species is found in Namibia.

Bullsport Guest Farm

The settlement of Bullsport is marked on nearly every map, however it consists of little more than this friendly guest farm. The owners are welcoming and eager to share their Namibian experiences. Great for hiking and horse riding.

Capricorn Rest Camp

A small, budget friendly, owner operated rest camp, with individual bungalows & campsites. Great for those wanting to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life

Naukluft Camp - Kudus Rus

Located in the mountainous Naukluft section of the Namib Naukluft Park, this is an ideal base for hikers or those wanting to relax at the crystal clear rock pools that amazingly exist in the desert environment

Neuras Wine Estate

One of the finest desert wine estates in the world can be found on the edge of the Namib Desert. The estate offers accommodation & wine tasting tours

Tsauchab River Camp

A small lodge on the banks of the Tsauchab River - an excellent place for walking and enjoying the surrounding scenery. Visitors are welcomed by an amazing arrary of metal sculptures

Zebra River Lodge

Another excellent place for hiking, in the Tsaris Mountains. If you want a genuinely warm welcome at a special lodge then this is an excellent choice. Zebra River can be used as a base for visits to the dunes at Sossusvlei, but is best used to relax and walk on the massive lodge property

Hotels Namibia