What are the differences between Moles & Mole-Rats ?

Mole rat

Mole Rats

African mole-rat, or Hottentot mole-rat, is a burrowing rodent found in Southern Africa, in particular in the Western Cape province of South Africa.

Mole Rat facts

  • Mole-rats are stocky, short-tailed rodents with tiny eyes and near-invisible ears.
  • Mole Rats hey have evolved five tiny like fingers forming what appears to be a hand on their front feet.
  • Their coats are rather matt and not as shiny as the golden mole.
  • Their large white incisors are exposed even when the mouth is closed, the lips actually closing behind the incisors.
  • What makes these incisors special is that they move independently and voluntarily. The movement of the lower incisors is analogous to the movement of fingers as they are both involved in grasp and touch.
  • Mole rats utilize their front incisors for exploring their environment, excavating tunnels, carrying and eating food, transporting young, and grooming.
  • Furthermore, their incisors are used in competition for resources, colony defence, and interspecies competition, otherwise known as “incisor fencing”.
  • Mole-rats are herbivorous, and most species rely on storage organs like roots, though grasses, herbs and occasionally invertebrates and even other rodents are eaten by some species too.
  • They live in small colonies, although there can be up to 14-mole rats in a colony.
  • Mole rats throw up mounds along the main burrow to get rid of surplus soil loosened on an excavation. They are particularly active after rain in expanding these burrows, as can be seen in by the extended line of fresh mounds thrown up.
  • The fresh mounds are easily recognised as damp soil pushed out to retain the shape of the burrow, only breaking down in a loose pile as it dries.

 Cape Golden Mole (Chrysochloris asiatica)

Golden moles are small, insectivorous burrowing mammals endemic to Southern Africa, where their Afrikaans names are gouemolle or kruipmolle.

Moles are not blind, as most people believe. They do have eyes and internal ears, but these are very small to prevent them from being clogged up and damaged during tunnelling.

Golden Mole Facts

  • Golden Moles occur only in SubSaharan Africa, and nowhere else in the world.
  • One of their habitats in the southwestern parts of the Kruger National Park. Golden moles live underground in the sandy soil under grasslands with scattered trees and bushes (also known as bushveld).
  • The body of the golden mole is covered with silky cinnamon-brown fur that is getting darker toward the back and paler toward the belly.
  • Golden moles are highly specialized for the underground life. They have muscular shoulders and short, but strong legs, equipped with curved claws, designed for the digging of the tunnels. Webbed hind legs allow shovelling in backwards.
  • Golden moles usually dig their tunnels just below the surface of the ground
  • Although they can see, the mole’s eyesight is poor, and eyes are overgrown with no ability to detect colours, just light from dark and movement.
  • Golden mole has an excellent sense of touch and hearing internal ears), used for detection of vibrations that may signal potential danger.
  • Golden moles are insectivores with teeth almost like a little dog. with which they eat a different kind of insects, earthworms and snails. Termites are their favourite foods
  • In their hunt for earthworms and other subterranean insect prey, they use their smooth leathery snouts to push the soil upwards, which is then moved backwards with the claws of the front feet.
  • The fore-legs evolved into long clawed toes that  are used as burrowing instruments
  • Golden moles are rarely seen in the wild because they are very small, live underground and because they are active only during the night.
  • They normally burrow just below the sand surface, leaving a distinctive humped trail
  • The Cape Golden Mole is solitary. Each adult maintains its own tunnel
Lientjie Cohen
Scientific American
Encyclopedia of Life


Dainty Sugarbush covers the veld on the Land’s End hiking trail

Hiking on Paardeplaats Nature Retreat is a very popular hiking activity for the whole family. Lands’ End with its panoramic views and the easy trail has to be maintained during the rainy season. Brian made a beautiful discovery this week while cutting the Land’s End trail with a tractor. The dainty sugarbush was abundantly blooming like a ground cover in the veld.

Protea Parvula veld on Lands' End Hiking Trail

Protea Parvula veld on Lands’ End Hiking Trail

Protea parvula Beard. Is a near threatened plant on the red data list from the. PROTEACEAE family. This commonly called Dainty Sugarbush was first found near Kaapsche Hoop in Mpumalanga in 1928 by Dr E.P. Phillips
The dainty sugarbush is one of the summer rainfall grassland proteas. It is a low-growing shrub of below 20 cm in height, which contributes to its demise during fires. The seeds of Protea parvula, fortunately, survive these fires typical of its habitat, however.

Protea Parvula in bloom on Paardeplaats Nature Retreat
For the past 100 years, the population is has been decreasing and is estimated to have reduced 20-30% is estimated based on 28% habitat loss due to afforestation (pines), mining for soapstone and alien plant invasion.
It flowers in December through to March in the Mpumalanga, KZN and Swaziland habitats. Like many proteas, it grows in rocky terrain in acid soil.

Lands End hiking trails where the dainty sugarbush was discovered

The grassland at the high altitude of the habitat is characterised by short grass. Birds pollinate the plant and wind disperse the seed.

Lands’ End -A hiking trail that is definitely worth a visit!

Vulture Restaurant on Paardeplaats


A vulture restaurant is an area where non-toxic, poison-free meat and carcasses are provided for vultures and other scavengers. This area must be free of human traffic and totally undisturbed. The supplementary feeding, such as an animal carcass, supports the vultures in times of food scarcity and when young birds fledge.

As well as providing a safe food source, vulture restaurants provide landowners with a clean and cost-effective way of disposing of waste and unwanted carcasses. Using vulture restaurants, Paardeplaats Nature Reserve is contributing to conservation efforts and disposing of their waste in an environmentally-friendly way.

Local farmers and landowners bordering Paardeplaats Nature Reserve have started donating domestic livestock that otherwise had to be buried or burnt and is that are unfit for human consumption. Carcasses that have been euthanized or treated with certain veterinary drugs or dips are poisonous to vultures and Brian and Gerda check the validity of the donated carcass for safe feeding.

The Whitehorns utilise their vulture restaurant to raise public awareness of the plight of the species’ as these restaurants play an important role in eco-tourism.


Vultures, positioned at the top of the food chain, are an indicator of the health of the environment below them – and dependent for their survival on a healthy environment.

They form an important ecological component of our natural environment, cleaning up dead carcasses and decreasing the spread of some diseases. Despite this, vultures face an unprecedented onslaught from human activities. They have to cope with the changing landscape of progress such as electrocutions and collisions with electrical structures as well poisonings, to name a few.

In order to ensure the future of these vultures, we need to work together, spread the word, and actively contribute to the conservation of our indigenous vulture species.



Birding on Paardeplaats

birding gurneys nest with chicks

The farm is covered by patches of a few different types of Protea, mainly the Silver Protea and Common Sugarbush. The Transvaal Bottle Brush is also quite common in the area and together with the Aloe Arborescence, they are the home and breeding ground for the much sought after Gurney’s Sugarbird, researched by Dawie de Swardt of the National Museum in Bloemfontein.

Paardeplaats’ Jesus Hill features on the international birding atlas and the Mpumalanga Nature Conservation Map as highly sensitive, because of the sugarbird’s association with these trees. The sugarbirds do not only forage mainly on the nectar of the Protea flowers, but also use the trees as their main nesting sites. Their nests are even lined with Protea seeds.

We have a bird-list of about 200 bird species which have been recorded in the Lydenburg area by Dawie in his years of research on the farm and surrounds.

The area close to the Anglo Boer War forts, because of its remote situation, is a popular breeding site for Denham’s Bustards in early spring.

bird list1Blue Cranes have a couple of favoured breeding sites on the farm in late spring, early summer.

The garden around the Miners’ Canteen and the bedrooms is home to a host of interesting, different birds – enjoy the early morning symphony. Species such as Barthroathed Apalis, Drakensberg Prinia, Cape White-eye, Cape Robin-chat, Redwinged Starling and Cape Rock Thrushes are resident here. In winter, look out for sunbirds (Malachite, Greater Double-collared and Amethyst) and of course the Gurney’s Sugarbirds visit the aloes on the nearby krantzes, in autumn and winter.

In the near future we will be setting up a “Vulture Restaurant” opposite the roosting site on the cliffs in “Masjienkloof”, with a hide, for research purposes. Watch this spot for developments!