Endangered Pickersgill’s Reed Frogs Released at Mount Moreland
17 September 2018
The Department of Environmental Affairs, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife and the Johannesburg Zoo today (17 September 2018) released 200 captive-bred engangered Pickersgill’s Reed Frogs at Mount Moreland and Prospecton areas in eThikwini, KwaZulu-Natal.
The release of the frogs in areas where their parents originated comes a year since the publication of the Biodiversity Management Plan for the Pickersgill’s Reed Frog (Hyperolius pickersgilli).
Amphibians play integral roles in most ecosystems and are presently the most threatened Class of vertebrates globally, with approximately one third of all known species Red Listed by the IUCN. This situation is reflected in South Africa, with 30% of the country’s frog species listed under a threatened category.
Overall, 43% of South African frog species are endemic to the country. Of these, 35% are in a threatened category, and all but one of the threatened species are endemics.
The highest species richness for frogs occurs in KwaZulu-Natal, an area that has been recognised as being important for both frog endemism and having high levels of human activity, particularly in the coastal regions.
Pickersgill’s Reed Frog is a small frog known only from limited and highly fragmented coastal wetland habitat in KwaZulu-Natal, mostly commercially-owned land. Without concerted pro-active conservation intervention it is highly likely that the species will become extinct.
The Pickersgill’s Reed Frog is listed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red Data List and by South Africa’s Threatened or Protected Species (TOPS) Regulations of the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act as Endangered. The species is KwaZulu-Natal’s only amphibian species with this status.
Threats include habitat loss as a result of wetland drainage or destruction for agricultural, urban and industrial development; severe habitat fragmentation; alien vegetation and afforestation resulting in drying out of breeding sites and pollution from pesticides and other contaminants.
The aim of the Biodiversity Management Plan for species for Pickersgill’s Reed Frog is to improve the conservation status of Hyperolius pickersgilli and secure its future survival in the wild. The major benefit of the Species Management Plan will be to obtain the support of owners, managers and occupiers of land on which the frogs occur for implementation of conservation actions.
Amongst the management actions being taken has included a breeding programme by the Johannesburg Zoo to create sustainable insurance populations of Endangered amphibians that can be introduced or re-introduced back into their natural environment whenever a need arises.
In 2017, the Zoo and Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife signed an agreement to breed and re-introduce the Pickersgill’s Reed Frog. This entailed collecting wild specimens and breeding them at the zoo in order to maintain a healthy and genetically diverse “insurance” population.
The Zoo was able to collect 20 specimens from two sites. About 200 captive-bred offspring were released in the Mount Moreland and Prospecton areas – a first for South Africa.
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