Dragonflies and damselflies are frustratingly fussy. Different Odonata species (the insect order for dragonflies and damselflies) have specific habitat preferences. While some like still water, others prefer flowing streams. Then there are those that prefer restios, or those that rather choose water lily leaves.

But there’s one thing all Odonata species have in common: They all prefer good water quality. That’s why they are seen as such sensitive indicators to river and wetland health.


So when dragonfly and damselfly expert, Corrie du Toit, visited the Nuwejaars Wetlands for a second time, we were excited to see her findings.

Corrie first surveyed the wetlands, rivers and streams in the Nuwejaars Wetlands Special Management Area (NWSMA) in 2021. At this stage, much invasive alien clearing work had taken place – thanks to donor support from WWF South Africa (supported by the Overberg District Municipality), to restore wetland habitat for birds. However, much work still had to take place. And areas where invasive alien plant species had been removed were still recovering.

Top: Long Skimmer. Bottom: Common Thorntail

Three years later…

During her 2024 visit to the NWSMA, Corrie could highlight the phenomenal difference brought about by the restoration work taking place here.

“There was a tremendous increase in the numbers and density of individuals observed,” she noted in a report compiled after her trip. “This indicates that conditions in their natural habitats have improved to such an extent that they are thriving and multiplying in the area as compared to three years ago.”

Her visit resulted in a number of new records of species for the NWSMA. The highlight of these was a first record of the Yellow-veined Widow (Palpopleura jucunda).

Top: The Yellow-veined Widow proved to be a wonderful sighting for Corrie. The females have a yellow and black colouring while the males are blue. 

She says, “The most exciting find of the day was definitely the significant number of Yellow-veined Widows that were sitting on their favourite perches, i.e. the tips of long grasses.”

Ferruginous Glider (Tramea limbata) and Friendly Hawker (Zosteraeschna minuscula) were also added to the list for the first time. Corrie says, “The 3 new species will all be first time records on the database of the Biodiversity & Development Institute Virtual Museum for the locus, which is very exciting.”

Other species include Red-veined Dropwing, Broad Scarlet, Cape Skimmer (which only occurs in the south and south-western Cape), Long Skimmer, Mountain Sprite (endemic to South Africa – ranging from south-western Cape eastwards into the Eastern Cape, western KZN and eastern Free State) and Two-striped Skimmer.

It means that in total, 23 species of dragonflies and damselflies have been recorded in the Nuwejaars wetlands.

Considerable work remains in restoring the Nuwejaars River and surrounding wetlands – to create the right conditions for Odonata species further downstream. WWF South Africa has once again partnered with the NWSMA team, to support additional restoration activities in new sections of the Special Management Area – which will hopefully continue to restore habitat for Odonata species.

Corrie concludes, “As indicated by the remarkable increase in the presence and numbers of Odonata as well as the variety of species, the restoration of the Nuwejaars Wetlands is a proven success.”

This recovery is thanks to the incredible donors that support ongoing restoration projects in the Nuwejaars Wetlands and our work to better understand species of conservation concern, including WWF South Africa, the Table Mountain Fund, Hans Hoheisen Charitable Trust and the Mapula Trust.

Images: Corrie du Toit and Heather D’Alton (LoveGreen Communications)