Summary: Dunedin Farm offers excellent potential to see the rare, endemic Riverine Rabbit. After a visit to the nearby Karoo National Park, my father (Clide Carter) and I booked a night
at the Riverine Rabbit Retreat on Dunedin Farm (Western Cape, South Africa). We had low expectations of seeing the Riverine Rabbit but after some pointers from Johan Moolman (the farm owner) we had great views of one before sunset; and saw another two with Johan the next morning. We extended our stay for another two nights once we realized the potential for other smaller mammals and
reptiles. Our trip total of 19 mammals included Aardwolf, Bat-eared Fox, Round-eared Sengi, Cape Sengi and Hewitt’s Red Rock Hare. This trip report morphed into a site guide as there is nothing else published and I believe it is most likely the best place to look for Riverine Rabbit.
My trip report is here with key extracts shown below.
Dunedin Farm and Riverine Rabbit Retreat
Dunedin Farm is a working farm owned by Johan and Marietha Moolman. They and their two sons are very keen on the local wildlife and were extremely helpful in giving us a detailed rundown on all the species and locations that they knew of. Manus (13) is especially keen and a local authority on the resident birds which include some Karoo specialties.
The farm is halfway between Beaufort West and Loxton in the Western Cape (South Africa); and is within the Sak River Conservancy. Guests at the farm stay in the Riverine Rabbit Retreat guesthouse which is a very comfortable, fully-contained farmhouse about 5 km from the Dunedin farmhouse (home of the Moolmans).
The Retreat has 5 bedrooms, with space for at least 10 guests. It is set up for self-catering. Rental is very reasonable and rates are per person. For reservations contact Marietha at email@example.com
Directions to Dunedin from Beaufort West: Take the N2 road towards Johannesburg. After about 1 km you turn left (north) on the R381 and follow that for 56 km to the Dunedin Farmhouse. It would take about one hour without stops. The first 14 km is sealed road (along the eastern edge of the Karoo NP), followed by 10 km good gravel road through the Molteno Pass. After this gravel section there is a further 32 km (sealed road + gravel) to the Dunedin Farm main gate. Dunedin Farmhouse is 200 m off the main road. Note that the upper parts of the Molteno Pass is worth spotlighting if you stay in Beaufort West when visiting the Karoo NP.
The farm holds a good population of Riverine Rabbit with ongoing research in the area. Johan mentioned that the best time to see them is at dusk and dawn (and not necessarily at night) and showed us the two key areas (R1 and R2 on the google earth images below) along the banks of the Sak River and its tributaries.
We saw one very well at the R1 area at 6.30 pm; 30 minutes before sunset; it was grooming and foraging about 20 m off the main track. The next morning, with Johan, we walked the road through the R2 area for an hour and saw another two at around 7.15 and 7.30 am (sunrise was 6 am).
Riverine Rabbit rear view
Key sites are marked on the two google earth maps (in the trip report). The first map shows the northern area around the retreat; the second shows the southern area. For mammals I suggest focusing on the areas around Dam Hill, R1, T1 and the Retreat.
- The track to RR Retreat starts
600 m north of the gate to Dunedin Farmhouse. The R1 area is between track junctions J1 and J2 (2.2 km and 2.7 km from the main road). The Retreat is about 5.5 km from the main road. Points T1, J1 to J5 lie along this track. A good road for a night-drive.
- The R1 area is the closest area to work for Riverine Rabbit. Pygmy Hairy-footed Gerbil also seen here and Bat-eared Fox was common (2/3 nights).
- Dam Hill: Dolerite hill with large boulders. Hewitt’s Red Rock Hare
common after sunset in the areas with smaller boulders (see photo). Aardwolf was seen here and Cape Eagle Owl roost here. I also found a Coral Snake (venomous) one night. Cape Sengi like to sunbath late afternoon; they come out close if you sit quietly.
- Riverine Rabbit Retreat House: Porcupine and Small-spotted Genet at night. Spectacled Dormouse recorded at the house. Bats night-roosting in the sheds (Long-tailed Serotine).
- Pump-house Track: The track from the Retreat to the pump-house (at the dam wall) is about 1.5 km long. Round-eared Sengi
was seen 200 m before the pump-house; Aardvark burrows are common; there is Karoo Bush Rat lodge on the track edge just before “car-wreck gully” (near the PHT pin on the map); Cape Sengi occur in rocky areas upslope from the pump-house; Clawless Otter at the dam; Spectacled Dormouse known at the pump-house and Dam Hill. Small-spotted Genet on the cliffs near the old grave-yard.
- Eagle Nest Track and Cliffs: a good area to try for Aardvark; Verraux’s Eagle nest here.
- The Track to NE Windmill starts 600 m north of Dunedin Farmhouse. Cape Fox is reported along here and the track to R1. There is a Ground Squirrel colony at the windmill.
- The R2 area is 2.2 km SW of Dunedin Farmhouse; the track starts from the back of the Dunedin Farmhouse.
- Dunedin Farm-house: Karoo Bush Rat colony behind the house near the blue-doored building.
- Phone Tower Hill: access to this area is from a track which starts opposite the Dunedin Farmhouse; the hill is a particularly rocky area and worth exploring further if time permits. 4WD is needed on the hill. There is a suricate colony on the way to the hill. Sengi seen; Hewitt’s Red Rock Hare also present.
The mammal list shows 50 species confirmed to date on the farm. It is based on this trip (19 species – in bold below) as well as sightings and information from the Moolmans and records by Trevor Morgan (2014) on bats on the property (the 9 bat species listed). See the pdf trip report for details on records for the listed species.
There has been no other small-mammal work on the property so further spotlighting and trapping should easily produce more species. Species names are those used by the IUCN.
- Chlorotalpa sclateri Sclater’s Golden Mole
- Macroscelides proboscideus Round-eared Sengi
- Elephantulus rupestris Western Rock Sengi
- Elephantulus edwardii Cape Rock Sengi
- Eptesicus hottentotus Long-tailed Serotine
- Neoromicia capensis Cape Serotine
- Miniopterus natalensis Natal Long-fingered Bat
- Myotis tricolor Temminck’s Myotis
- Cistugo lesueuri Lesueur’s Wing-gland Bat
- Tadarida aegyptiaca Egyptian Free-tailed Bat
- Nycteris thebaica Egyptian Slit-faced Bat
- Rhinolophus capensis Cape Horseshoe Bat
- Rhinolophus clivosus Geoffrey’s Horseshoe Bat
- Papio ursinus Chacma Baboon
- Chlorocebus pygerythrus Vervet Monkey
- Lepus capensis Cape Hare
- Lepus saxatilis Scrub Hare
- Pronolagus saundersiae Hewitt’s Red Rock Hare
- Bunolagus monticularis Riverine Rabbit
- Xerus inauris Southern African Ground Squirrel
- Graphiurus ocularis Spectacled Dormouse
- Cryptomys hottentotus Common Mole-rat
- Hystrix africaeaustralis Cape Porcupine
- Gerbillurus paeba Pygmy Hairy-footed Gerbil
- Rhabdomys pumilio Four-striped Mouse
- Otomys unisulcatus Karoo Bush Rat
- Vulpes chama Cape Fox
- Otocyon megalotis Bat-eared Fox
- Canis mesomelas Black-backed Jackal
- Aonyx capensis African Clawless Otter
- Atilax paludinosus Marsh Mongoose
- Cynictis penicillata Yellow Mongoose
- Herpestes pulverulentus Small Grey Mongoose
- Ictonyx striatus Striped Polecat
- Suricata suricatta Suricate (Meerkat)
- Genetta genetta Small-spotted Genet
- Proteles cristatus Aardwolf
- Felis silvestris African Wild Cat
- Caracal caracal Caracal
- Orycteropus afer Aardvaark
- Procavia capensis Rock Hyrax
- Tragelaphus oryx Common Eland
- Tragelaphus strepsiceros Greater Kudu
- Oryx gazella Gemsbok
- Redunca arundinum Southern Reedbuck
- Redunca fulvorufula Mountain Reedbuck
- Antidorcas marsupialis Springbok
- Oreotragus oreotragus Klipspringer
- Raphicerus campestris Steenbok
- Dama dama Fallow Deer
Birds this trip included Rufous-eared Warbler, Lark-like Bunting, Karoo Eremomela, Spike-heeled Lark, Karoo Lark, Black-headed Canary, Cinnamon-breasted Warbler, Ludwig’s bustard, Rufous-cheeked Nightjar, Karoo Thrush. Cape Eagle Owl roost at Dam Hill. Verreaux’s Eagle nest at Eagle Nest Cliffs.
Reptiles seen this trip:
- Golden Spotted Gecko Pachydactulus oculatus
- Bibron’s thick-toed Gecko Pachydactylus bibronii
- Ground Agama Agama aculeata
- Karoo Girdled Lizard Cordylus polyzonus
- Western Rock Skink Mabuya sulcata
- Variegated Skink Mabuya variegata
- Spotted Sand Lizard Pedioplanis lineoocellata
- Coral Snake Aspidelaps lubricus