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Welcome to the University of Venda’s Department of Zoology. We are situated in a truly fascinating region of the world, the Vhembe District, South Africa. We fall under the School of Mathematical and Natural Sciences.

Our department consists of dedicated staff members involved with teaching and training budding zoologists, ecologists and nature conservationists. As a department, we exist to conduct research and make a difference to the lives of our students within the context of a developing rural region. We are also the only Zoo Department situated in a Biosphere Reserve in Africa!

To find out more about us, what we do and how to contact us please feel free to explore our website.

The Department of Zoology, by virtue of its unique biogeographic position, is focused on bringing its research and teaching to bear on sustainable rural livelihoods. In essence, the aim is to resolve conflicts between rapidly developing rural communities and ecosystems so that ecosystem resilience and services are not irreparably compromised for future generations. This research is all firmly entrenched in a rural setting where teaching is focused on students from disadvantaged backgrounds. The department’s expertise is therefore focused on the conservation of natural animal communities and water resorurces and the teaching underprepared students.


Teach, research and communicate knowledge in the ecology, conservation and management of rural areas with the following thrusts:
- Global change ecology
- Alien invasion
- Freshwater conservation
- Genetics and taxonomy


To discover, teach and broadly communicate, knowledge on sustainable rural livelihoods

Strategic Objectives

- Provide quality training for undergraduate students from previously disadvantaged communities that will enable them to access postgraduate opportunities nationally and internationally at reputable tertiary institutions
- Maintain a rigorous, broad-based major in biological sciences that provides a compelling learning experience.
- Emphasize general purpose problem solving and analytical abilities that have broad applicability and so foster an ability to adapt to the changing world.
- Emphasize the fundamental building blocks in biology that constitute themes of unification and integration
- Devise and maintain a non-major instructional program that captures the attention of students and enables them to understand a wide range of contemporary biomedical, biological, medical, and environmental issues.

Research - Focus research on scarce resources, water in particular
- Develop strategic liaisons with national and international Universities, research institutions and international conservation organisations

Services Communicate contemporary biological science in a compelling way to the public through lectures, workshops, service on boards, outreach to schools, interviews with the media, and other appropriate endeavors.
Inform public policy on the pressing problems of the day (e.g., bio-ethics, environment, evolution) through consultations, service on boards, and related endeavors.
Foster the development of science through service with professional societies, editorial boards, foundations, and funding agencies.
Advise undergraduates on the structure of their degree programs, research, and careers.

The following courses are offered by Zoology:

BSc Botany and Zoology
BSc Biodiveristy and Conservation
Diploma in Freshwater Technology
BSc Hons Zoology
BSc Hons Conservation Biology
MSc Zoology
PhD Zoology

First Year Modules
BIO1541: Diversity of Life

Biological principles and the science of biology, the origin and chemistry of life, classification and phylogeny of animals, review of bacteria, fungi and viruses, kingdom protista (classification 7 characteristics), kingdom animalia (a general review), kingdom plantae (review , life cycles and theories of their possible origin).

BIO1542: Cell Biology

Organic chemistry: the scope of biochemistry, organic compounds of importance to the living system, structure, functional groups, stereochemistry and characteristics of the carbohydrates, lipids, proteins and nucleic acids, chemical-physical principles of biochemical bonds, matrix of life: weak interactions in an aqueous solution, energetics of life. Cytology: history of cell biology, cell theory, membrane biology, structure and features of eukaryotic cells, techniques used in cytology. prokaryotic cells. Genetics: DNA replication, transcription and translation, introductory principles of mitosis and meiosis, Chromosome variation, sex determination and the mechanism of sex related inheritance, Mendelian genetics, multiple factor inheritance

BIO 1643: Ecology, Adaptation and Evolution

Ecosystems, Energy flow and nutrient cycling, Analysis of communities, ecological hierarchy and sampling methodology, species and their relationship, common and rare species, latitude gradients, interactive network and food webs, niches and competition, demography, dispersal, evolution and natural selection, microevolution, macroevolution, origin of life.

BIO1644: Introductory Human Anatomy and Physiology

Introduction to human Physiology and Anatomy: chemical basis of life, introduction to cytology and cell physiology, histology: skin and integument, support and movement, integration and coordination, reproduction, processing and transportation.

Second Year Modules

BIO2541: Human Anatomy for BCur students

Basic study of the human body: introduction to anatomy, organization of the human body (structure, cytology & histology), and a detailed study of human morphology and anatomy (integumentary, support & movement, integration & coordination, cardiovascular, respiratory, digestive, respiratory, urinary and reproductive systems).

BIO2542: Ecology

Population distribution and abundance, population dynamics, population growth, life histories, competition, predation, herbivory, parasitism, mutualism. energy flow and nutrient cycling in ecosystems; biomes and factors determining spatial distribution of life zones in the world and South Africa.

ZOO 2544: Cell Biology II

Laws of Mendelian inheritance – assortment and segregation, Analysing the inheritance of Mendelian traits through family pedigrees, Autosomal, sex-linked and sex-limited traits, Recombination and chromosomal cross-overs; Introduction to molecular structure of DNA and RNA and their physical properties, the structure of prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells, how DNA is packaged in cells (chromosome form, nucleus, cytoplasmic DNA), the genetic code and how this relates to the development of living organisms, the process of gene expression through transcription and translation, DNA replication and repair mechanisms, Genome sizes (number of nucleotide base pairs).

BIO2631: Human Physiology for BCur students

An introduction to physiology, concept of homeostasis, cell physiology, food and energy, gaseous exchange, blood physiology, cardiovascular system, water and osmotic regulation, movement, information and integration, calcium metabolism and bone formation, body heat and temperature regulation and reproduction.

BIO 2646 : Conservation Biology I

The natural world; principles and concepts; human impacts; habitat destruction and disturbance; sustainability; history of conservation biology; selecting protected areas; in situ and ex situ conservation issues; the landscape mosaic; managing for biodiversity; ecological restoration.

ZOO2541: Animal Physiology

Introduction to cell structure and functions of cell organelles, specialized cell types, cell division, principles of cellular transport, Structure and function of tissues, organs and organ systems, Nutrition and feeding, Structure and function of the respiratory systems, including movement of respiratory gases in, out and around the body, Structure and function of the urinary system, and its role in regulating body fluids, Characteristics of body structure of a range of invertebrates and vertebrates in particular to type of skeletal systems, and movement, tructure and function of the nervous system including sense organs, initiation and transmission of nerve impulses and conduction across the synapse, co-ordination of the body in terms of sensory, integrative and motor functions of the nervous system

ZOO2648: Animal Phylogeny

Introduction to evolutionary biology, the tree of life: classification and phylogeny, patterns of evolution, evolution in the fossil record, history of life on earth, biogeography, evolution of biodiversity. Major animal body plans

Third Year Modules

BIO3648: Water Resource Management

Basic concepts of water resource management, sustainable development of water resources, principles and application of water treatment schemes, aquaculture, re-use of water, water purification and water quality assessment, eutrophication, control of invasive plants and animals, river channel and bank stabilization and rehabilitation, water based commercial projects.

BIO3646: Conservation Biology II

Biodiversity, the creation of ecosystems; ethics of 21st century conservation, the central role of people; political issues; ecosystem services; climate change and biodiversity; invasive alien organisms; protected areas; species conservation; “green” economics; conserving the evolutionary process; conservation in forest-, savanna-, marine-, dryland-, freshwater-, agricultural- and urban systems; conservation efforts, agreements and treaties.

BIO 3542: Biological Assessment

Scales, planning and approaches to monitoring, integrated approaches, selection of organisms for use in biological assessment, approaches to biological assessment, hydrology, alluviation and erosion, and water quality, river geomorphology, modeling as a guide for setting monitoring objectives.

BIO3544: Limnology

Pproperties of fresh water, factors, energy flow and nutrient cycling in fresh water ecosystems, fresh water lake and wetland types globally and regionally, water bodies in Southern Africa, river continuum concept, damming rivers, water pollution and eutrophication, Review of Water Act, concept “reserve” freshwater primary and secondary production, cycling of nutrients. Biomonitoring in fresh waters.

ZOO3541: Animal Ecophysiology

The physics of heat exchange, heat transfer, heat balance and control systems, animal responses to the thermal environment, physics of water movement, evaporative water loss and water turnover rates, nutritional requirements, energy, energy metabolism and the energy budgets, communication in the ecosystem.

ZOO3649: Molecular Genetics

Principles of Electrophoresis; Allozymes; PCR method and process; Primer design for PCR and sequencing; Restriction enzymes and RFLP analysis; Multilocus DNA fingerprinting; Microsatellite DNA; Southern Blotting; DNA sequence alignment and divergence matrix (absolute & p-distance); Structure of genes in nuclear DNA (introns, exons, flanking regions); The genetic code; Characterising sequence change (substitutions [silent vs. expressed, synonymous vs. non-synonymous, transition vs. transversion] & indels [ insertion vs. deletion); Special characteristics of mtDNA; Characters and character states (invariant, variable, uninformative/autapomorphic, parsimony informative, transversion and transition polymorphism); looking at phylogenetic trees (unrooted vs. rooted, diagonal vs. rectangular, cladograms vs. phylograms, branches, nodes, terminals, rooting, clades, monophyly); different approaches to phylogeny reconstruction using molecular data (Distance methods, Parsimony, Statistical modelling [Likelihood & Bayesian methods]), Evaluating support for Phylogenetic relationships (bootstraps & jackknife), models of sequence evolution.

Honours Year Modules

ZOO5507: Population Genetics

Genetic structure of populations, processes of evolutionary change, natural selection, inbreeding, co-adaptation and geographic differentiation, quantitative characters, speciation and macro-evolution.

ZOO5508: Applied Animal Ecology

Concepts (niche, life history, migration and dispersion, small populations, metapopulations, population interactions, succession, foodwebs, ecosystem functioning, biodiversity, island biogeography, sustainability) and the applications (alien invasives, restoration, conservation, minimum viable populations, habitat fragmentation, global climate change, economic thresholds, biological control, integrated pest management, euthrophication, agriculture, ecosystem health, conservation planning, economic implications.

BIO5510: Limnology

Rivers, lakes and wetlands in a global and regional perspective, river continuum concept, impacts of reservoirs and inter basin transfers, pollution, eutrophication and cycling of nutrients, in stream flow requirements, biomonitoring, SA Water Act and its implications, rehabilitation.

BIO 5611: Conservation Entomology

Basic insect morphology; higher classification of the Class Insecta; threats to insects; response of insects to the landscape mosaic; surveying and monitoring, insect conservation planning and management.

ZOO5609 : Animal Ecophysiology

Costs of living: Cost of production and cost of maintenance, cost of reproduction, trade-offs and their measurements, Physiological energetic (feeding, metabolism and growth): the comparative physiology of animal digestive system, feeding and digestion, optimal foraging and optimal digestion, constraints imposed by food items, Growth in animals: central concept, growth curves, metabolism and growth, physiology and cellular aspects of growth, the regulation and integration of growth, hormonal influences, environmental factors and growth, environmental tolerance, environmental stressors, Niche overlap and diet analysis: measurement of niche breadth and niche overlap, dietary preferences and indices, Reproduction: endocrine control, species difference in reproductive mechanisms, ovulation rate, embryonic mortality, gestation length, patterns of reproduction, pregnancy and lactation, the costing of reproduction, types of costing, trade-offs and their causes, the environment and reproduction.


Current research and collaborations

Besides our teaching and administrative duties, we are also involved with research on global change ecology, invasive aliens, freshwater conservation, molecular genetics and taxonomy.

Dr Paul Fouche is currently working on a project on Nandonni Dam registered with the Water Research Commission, with collaborators from University of Limpopo. Other project include among others a long term monitoring of fish populations in Kruger National park with Prof. Nico Smit from University of Johannesburg. He is also part of the provincial biomonitoring team at national meetings of the River Health Programme.

Prof Ben van der Waal is involved with a project on water resource management in the Caprivi Strip funded by WWF. He has just returned!

Dr Tshifhiwa Nanngambi has recently registered a project on genetic divergence among different Venda groups with Univen’s Research and Publications Committee. She is also collaborating with Dr from Natal Museum on Mollusca or something like that. She has also built up a new genetics laboratory at our department.

Prof. Jan Crafford is involved with supervising Mr Koos Steyn from UNIVEN School of Environmental Sciences on the use of trap crops in Macadamia orchards as a viable pest control strategy. He is supervising Mr project testing island biogeography theory in natural forest fragments in a grassland matrix, otherwise known colloquially as leopard bush.

Dr Stefan Foord, a core team member of the DST-NRF Center for Excellence in Invasion Biology, has a project registered with the NRF on spider diversity in the Savanna biome, and also conducts extensive sampling for the SANSA project headed by Prof Ansie Dippenaar Schoeman from the Agricultural Research Council. He is also supervising Dr Norbert Hahn’s Post-Doctoral project on the impact of invasive aliens in the Soutpansberg and and Caswell Munyai’s project on ants along an elevational transect in the Soutpansberg. He is also co-supervising honours students for 2010.

Mr Colin Schoeman has registered a project with Univen’s Research and Publications Committee on insect diversity and conservation in the Vhembe Biosphere Reserve that is running from 2010—2011. Dr Stephan Foord and Henk Geertsema of University of Stellenbosch are co-workers on this project. Mr Schoeman is supervising Daisy Thononda, Vanessa Matukana and Mandla Magoro’s honours projects on biodiversity in traditional agricultural landscapes.

Mr Schoeman and Mr Munyai have also started building up an insect collection for the department.

The department has a close association with Lajuma Research Station run by Prof. Ian Gaiger. Many of our student practicals and honors and masters projects have been conducted at Lajuma.

Canopy fogging for spiders on Lajuma
Specially woven baskets for catching fish in Caprivi
“Nice day for a spot of Malacology!”

“I caught a fish this big!” Nandoni Dam Project

Caswell at CIB’s annual research meeting

Favourite Links

Have a look at some really useful web sites related to our fields of interest.

Stefan Foord’d favourite links
Colin Schoeman’s favourite links
Ben van der Waal’s favourite link


Staff and graduate students at Zoology

Please browse through our staff and graduate student page. Feel free to contact us if you have any questions.

Academic Staff
Prof. Jan Ernst Crafford
Dr. Stefan foord
Prof Ben van der waal
Dr. Paul fouche
Dr. Tshifhiwa Nanngambi
Mr Colin Schoeman
Mr Justice Madonsela

Graduate Students
Caswell Munyai

Technical support staff
Mr Kathutshedo Magwede
Mr Gabriel Phaphana

Academic Staff

Prof. Jan Ernst Crafford

Dean's Profile

Jan Crafford was trained at Pretoria University, and spent many years studying the ecology and describing the insects of Marion Island. He holds the record for the longest continuous stay on Marion. He has recently, along with Prof Ian Gaiger, spearheaded the proclamation of the Vhembe Biosphere Reserve. He is currently the Dean of the School of Mathematical and Natural Sciences.


CRAFFORD J.E., SCHOLTZ C.H. & CHOWN S.L. 1986. The insects of sub-Antarctic Marion and Prince Edward Islands; with a bibliography of entomology of the Kerguelen biogeographical province. South African Journal of Antarctic Research Monograph Series 16:41-84

CRAFFORD J.E. and CHOWN S.L. 1993. Respiratory metabolism of sub-Antarctic insects from different habitats on Marion Island. Polar Biology 13:411-415

BERGER K., CRAFFORD J.E., GAIGHER I.G., GAIGHER M.J., and MacDONALD I.W. (eds.) 2003 A first synthesis of the environmental, biological and cultural assets of the Soutpansberg. Proceedings of a workshop on the natural and cultural assets of the Soutpansberg, Lajuma, December 2002. Leach Printers, Louis Trichardt


Dr. Stefan foord

A keen rugby player turned naturalist, and now heading the Department of Zoology, Dr Foord was trained at Pretoria University, and completed his PhD on the systematic revision of the spider family Hersiliidae. His current research deals with response of arachnid community assemblages to global change, with emphasis on global climate change and invasive aliens. He is a core team member of the DST-NRF Center of Excellence for Invasion Biology. He teaches phylogeny and applied animal ecology.


Foord, S.H., Mafadza, M., Dippenaar-Schoeman, A.S., Van Rensburg, B.J. 2008. Micro-scale heterogeneity of spiders (Arachnida: Araneae) in the Soutpansberg, South Africa: a comparative survey and inventory in representative habitats. African Zoology 43: 156-174.
Foord, S.H. 2008. Cladistic analysis of the family Hersiliidae (Arachnida Araneae) of the Afrotropical Region with the first records of Murricia and the description of a new genus, Prima, from Madagascar. Journal of Afrotropical Zoology 4: 111-141.

Societies: Zoological Society of Southern Africa, International Society of Arachnologists


Prof Ben van der waal

Ben was trained at Pretoria University and did his PhD on fish ecology and fisheries management in Caprivi, Namibia. He has recently spent the poast three years doing full-time research for the WWF on sustainable management of the fish populations in the Caprivi strip. He is interested in limnology of water bodies in Southern Africa, fisheries development in the Zambezi and Kavango Rivers, Ethnozoology of southern Africa, Conservation Biology and living sustainably in Africa.Ben teaches Water Resource Management and Limnology.

Recent publications:

Van der Waal, B C W 2001. Fish as a resource in a rural river catchment in Northern Province, African Journal of Aquatic Science 2000 25:56-70.

D’Amato, ME, Esterhuyse, MM, van der Waal, BCW, Brink, D and Volkaert FAM 2007. Hybridization and phylogeography of the Mozambique tilapia Oreochromis mossambicus in southern Africa evidenced by mitochondrial and microsatellite DNA genotyping. Conservation Genetics 8:475-488.

Societies: South African Association of Aquatic Scientists, Aquaculture Association of Southern Africa


Dr. Paul fouche

Paul is an aquatic biologist, having studied the impact of freshwater degradation on fish morphology and physiology, and populations in Limpopo Province’s threatened rivers. He has recently completed his PhD on the ecology and biology of the Lowveld largescale yellowfish (Labeobarbus arequensis) (Smith 1843) in the Luvuvhu River. He is currently developing a new Diploma in Freshwater monitoring. He is currently involved with monitoring of fish populations and communities in various freshwater bodies in Limpopo Province including Kruger National Park.


FOUCHé, P.S.O., VLOK, W. and VENTER, J. 2008. An investigation of the microhabitat preference of Labeobarbus marequensis In the Sabie, Olifants and Crocodile rivers within the Kruger National Park. Proceedings of the 11th Yellowfish Working Group conference, 13 – 15 April 2007.
FOUCHé P.S.O., VLOK, W. and Jooste A. 2009. Changes in the body shape and accompanying habitat shifts observed in the life cycle of lowveld largescale yellowfish, Labeobarbus marequensis, in the Luvuvhu River catchment. Proceedings of the 13th Yellow Working Group Conference, 6 – 8 March 2009.

Societies: South African Association of Aquatic Scientists


Dr. Tshifhiwa Nanngambi

Tshifhiwa completed her Ph.D. degree in the School of Biological and Conservation Sciences at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. Her Ph.D. research concerns the Systematics of the Phasianellidae in southern Africa (Mollusca: Gastropoda: Vetigastropoda). Tshifhiwa uses morphological and molecular data to identify natural groupings and infer phylogenetic relationships at the generic, subgeneric and species levels. Her current research project is on the genetic analysis of different tribal groups in the Limpopo Province: towards the establishment of Human Genetics Laboratory at the University of Venda. In 2004 she won the award for second best poster at the World Congress of Malacology in Perth, Australia, as well as the award for second best poster at the UKZN "Showcase of Research Excellence" exhibition. She teaches Cell Biology and Genetics.


Nangammbi TC & Herbert DG (2006) Two new species of Tricolia Risso, 1826 from South Africa (Mollusca: Gastropoda: Phasianellidae). African Invertebrates 47:11-22.
Nangammbi TC & Herbert DG (2008) A new species of pheasant shell from the south-western Indian Ocean (Mollusca: Gastropoda: Vetigastropoda: Phasianellidae: Tricolia). African Invertebrates 49(2): 13-19.

Societies: SASSB - Southern African Society for Systematic Biology, South Africa, Unitas Malacologica


Mr Colin Schoeman

Colin has recently completed his MSc on the Synergistic impact of Argentine ants and pine trees on native ants. He is interested in broad conservation issues surrounding insects: viz. how insects respond to the Vhembe traditional landscape mosaic. He teaches Conservation Biology and Entomology.


COLIN S. SCHOEMAN AND MICHAEL J. SAMWAYS, 2010. Synergisms between alien trees and the Argentine ant on indigenous ant species. Biodiversity Conservation (submitted).

Societies: South African Council of Scientific Professionals (Candidate Natural Scientist), Entomological Society of South Africa


Mr Justice Madonsela

Justice trained at UKZN and UWC. He focuses on physiology of small mammals, with the main focus on the role of dietary proteins in sexual function., biological control of alien plants (water hyacinth), and biological water monitoring, using algal group known as diatoms (Bacillariophyta). Justice teaches Physiology, Ecophysiology, Animal Diversity and Human Anatomy and Physiology.


Vawda, A.I and Mandlwana (Madonsela), G.J.1990. The effects of dietary protein deficiency on rat testicular function. Andrologia 22:575-585.

Professional membership: Microscopic Society of Southern Africa (MSSA), South African Society of Aquatic Sciences (SASAqS)

Graduate Students

Mr Caswell Munyai

Caswell is doing his MSc degree on an ant transect across the Soutpansberg, using elevation as a surrogate for global climate change.

Technical support staff

Mr Kathutshedo Magwede

Kathu is currently completing his MSc degree with Botany. He assists in the lab and the field.

Mr Gabriel Phaphana

Gabriel assists in the lab and field

Directions: University of Venda Campus is located in Thohoyandou, Northern province. To drive from Makhado, take the R 524 Sebasa Road off the N1, . Continue past Piesanhoek and Entabeni. Just after Entabeni, there is a road block, turn right and continue following the Thohoyandou signs. You’ll drive through the Levubu tropical valley, and eventually you will turn right back onto Sebasa road. Continue straight, drive past Tshakuma, and continue until you see the Thohoyandou Sibasa sign, at the following set of robots turn left. Continue onwards, at the second set of robots there is a board with VENCO written, turn left there, continue straight on. Just before the road turns to the left take the right and continue onwards until you see the parking behind a large building (the library). We are situated next to the Library in the Mathematics and Natural Sciences building. To Contact us: University of Venda Department of Zoology School of Mathematical and Natural Sciences University of Venda Thohoyandou Private Bag X5050 0950 Contact persons in the Department - Dr SH Foord (015) 9628492 - Dr PSO Fouche (015) 9629453