About Us

About seventeen years ago we went herping in Namaqualand – me, Paul Moler, the late Gordon Setaro and Rob Deans. It was a very productive trip and we managed to photograph a wide variety of reptiles including Horned Adders, Many-horned Adders, Spotted Rock Snakes, Common Egg-eaters, Dwarf Beaked Snakes, Beetz’s Tiger Snakes, Cape Coral Snakes, and a variety of lizards.

I mentioned to Paul that Namaqualand is a reptile paradise and that we should buy a farm there and turn it into a reptile research centre. In subsequent years we often jokingly discussed this idea of a farm near Springbok on field trips.

About a year back I mentioned to Paul that I had found a farm near Springbok that could work for what we had in mind, but it was not quite suitable. Recently, whilst visiting the area looking for a suitable property, we stayed over at the farm Skeur which belonged to our neighbours Hendrik and Maudi Botha. They also happen to be who we bought our house in Wapadrand from.

Upon our return to Pretoria, Hendrik asked whether we had found what we were looking for and I said no – but that his farm was perfect. He had not seriously considered selling his farm but quite a lot has happened in their lives recently and a few days later, over a cappuccino, we did a deal. The farm is stunning – close to Springbok, lots of magnificent rock outcrops and isolated – no noise pollution. With the generous help of Paul, Ab Abercrombie and our IT man Willem Van Zyl, we scraped together some money, and the deal was done. The farm was registered in the name of Kokerboom Biological Research Station towards the end of 2022.

The Kokerboom Biological Research Station has been registered as a non-profit company and with 18A registration – this enables corporates to get a tax break if money or goods are donated towards our project. There are many challenges – we need to do a lot of work on the farm, remove internal fences and loads of scrap metal, ploughed lands need to be rehabilitated to their original condition, fences need to be mended and additional student accommodation needs to be constructed.

Kokerboom currently has four directors – myself, Paul Moler, Graham Alexander, our good friend from Wits University and a leading reptile scientist, and Hendrik Botha who looks after the finances. None of us will earn a cent from the project and the main mission of Kokerboom is to provide affordable accommodation to MSc and PhD students, as well as the opportunity for them to complete their field work for their projects. While our main interest is reptiles there will also be opportunities to work on mammals, birds, plants, invertebrates, and geology.

We have a long way to go with this ambitious project. I will be doing some serious fundraising for the betterment of the farm as well as additional buildings and infrastructure and we need a 4×4 bakkie, tractor, beds, linen, crockery and cutlery, basic farm tools, a generator and the list goes on. There is an old tractor on the farm that urgently needs some attention.  We will also need some scientific equipment including camera traps, microscopes and weather stations.

Needless to say, we are very excited about the Kokerboom Biological Research Station and will keep you updated.

Johan Marais, November 2023

Farm Map