The Knysna 5 is a group of fascinating fauna that you may be lucky enough to see when you visit this top holiday destination in South Africa. All are indigenous to the area and three are listed as endangered.
The endangered Knysna seahorse (Hippocampus capensis), is a remarkable little fish with a long snake-like tail and a downward pointing snout that is related to the pipefish.
Apart from their unusual shape, seahorses are uniquely monogamous and the only animal species in which the male bears the unborn young. The female deposits her eggs into his brood pouch and the male fertilises them internally and carries them until they are hatched and released into the water.
The Knysna seahorse is endemic to just three southern Cape estuaries – Knysna, Swartvlei and Keurbooms. They are awkward swimmers and anchor themselves to seagrasses and corals where they feed on crustaceans and plankton.
Knysna dwarf chameleon
As a visitor to Knysna, you’d be lucky to spot one of these fascinating little reptiles which express themselves through a fascinating display of colour, turning from brilliant emerald green to turquoise, orange, blue, violet or even white.
Local Knysna resident Aldo Kleyn has been conserving the dwarf chameleon for about 15 years, breeding them in his garden and releasing them into their natural habitat. You can follow his fascinating updates on the Facebook page, Knysna Dwarf Chameleon.
You will recognise this beautiful bird by its green body, long tail and elegant white-tipped crest. It’s primary wing feathers are a brilliant red in flight. The Knysna loerie (or lourie or turaco) is found only in South Africa and particularly in the Knysna area of the Garden Route.
Brenton blue butterfly
Knysna is also home to one of the rarest butterflies in the world, the Brenton Blue (Orachrysopsniobe). Listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, a colony in Brenton-on-Sea was discovered in 1991 by Ernest Pringle, an Eastern Cape farmer and butterfly fundi. It is the only known remaining place where it occurs. A campaign to save the Brenton blue in 1994 led to the proclamation of the Brenton Blue Butterfly Reserve in 2003.
Knysna Banana frog
Presumably called a banana frog because of its creamy yellow colour and lateral brown stripes, the Knysna leaf-folding frog (Afrixalusknysnae) is listed by IUCN as Endangered. It occurs in coastal vegetation including mountain fynbos and forests on the Garden Route and breeds in small dams and shallow semi-permanent water of high quality. It is threatened by urban development, chemical pollution and invasive vegetation.