Knysna dwarf chameleon

Meet the Knysna 5

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.

Knysna seahorse

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.

Top Tip: You can snorkel or scuba dive to see this little creature in Knysna, but the easiest way would be to visit the SANParks offices at Thesen Harbour Town where there is an aquarium housing a number of specimens.

Knysna dwarf chameleon

The Knysna dwarf chameleon (Bradypodiondamaranum) is endemic to South Africa and found only in the Knysna Afromontane forests and surrounding area.

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.

Top Tip: A good place to spot them going about their daily business is in the trees at the Oaks on Main Centre in Main Street Knysna

Knysna dwarf chameleon

Knysna loerie

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.

Top Tip: It’s not unusual to see a loerie in the forest or suburbs of Knysna, however you have an excellent chance of seeing this elusive bird if you visit Blackwaters River Lodge just off the N2 on your way to Sedgefield.

Knysna loerie

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.

Top Tip: Visits to the reserve are strictly by appointment only – to set up your date with the Brenton Blue, please call Dr Edge on +27 (0)44 381-0014 during business hours.

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.

Top Tip: They often hide in Arum lilies, especially around dams and in wetlands.