Bionerds implements a project for the Endangered Wildlife Trusts Threatened Amphibian Programme that looks at protecting the unique, range-restricted and endemic amphibian species in the Western Cape Eastern Cape regions of South Africa.
The Western Cape of South Africa has the highest concentration of endemic and Threatened amphibian species in our country. The species included in this project that we focus on is the Moonlight Mountain Toadlet (Capensibufo selenophos, Data Deficient), the Rough Moss Frog (Arthroleptella rugosa, Critically Endangered) and the Micro Frog (Microbatrachella capensis, Critically Endangered) that occurs in the Overberg Region of the Western Cape. All three of these species were identified for targeted habitat protection including critical habitat interventions that will bolster, and in the case of the Rough Moss Frog, it could save the only known population of this species. According to the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) 2020, all three of these species require research on population sizes, life history and distribution – as well as identification of the significant threats each species faces in their respective areas of distribution.
Micro Frogs are known from a handful of remaining localities that comprises of a 7km2 total area of occupancy, and they occur in lowland wetlands alongside the Endangered Cape Platanna (Xenopus gilli) and Western Leopard Toad (Sclerophrys pantherina) which is all facing threats from urban expansion, habitat fragmentation and water extraction leaving breeding areas non-viable.
The Moonlight Mountain Toadlet is an enigma itself. It was only recently described (Channing et al. 2017), and very little is known about this species distribution, habits, habitat preference and life cycle. Surveying for them is not an easy feat since all known locations occur in high altitude peaty wetlands, they do not call and only congregate around these areas for a few weeks a year during their peak breeding season. Survey areas include the Kleinrivier, Akkedisberg and Soetmuisberg Mountains of the Overberg, where we have extended the known range to include three new populations of this species. You can read more about this toadlet and the surveys we have done on the Kleinriver Mountain in our latest blog.
Rough Moss Frogs occur on one single mountain, above the town of Caledon. This mountain has been severely impacted by alien invasive vegetation, threatening the type locality of this species. Securing habitat for this species is critical, and management interventions have been identified for critical action to ensure that this species is given a chance of survival. Bionerds is surveying the mountain, alongside CapeNature, to identify new sub-populations, document and map the total area of distribution and to engage with landowners to find a way forward to protect this species.
The Amathole Toad (Vandijkophrynus amatolicus, Critically Endangered) occurs in the Hogsback region of the Amathole Mountains of the Eastern Cape. This species is a grassland wetland specialist, and Bionerds is conducting site assessments to identify viable habitat for this species, survey for new populations and sub-populations, and engage with landowners to secure high water yield grasslands through Biodiversity Stewardship.
The overarching project's various aspects include detectability and habitat utilization research, population and sub-population surveys – with the ultimate objective of securing some form of formal protection through Biodiversity Stewardship of core populations for all of these species.