Conservation of amphibians in Africa
Amphibians are one of the most threatened animal groups worldwide. Threats range from over-exploitation for food or the pet trade to pollution, climate change, disease, habitat loss and degradation. As a result, amphibians are often considered to be good indicators to wider ecosystem health.
Information on Africa is patchy, but some countries such as Cameroon have as many as 200 species of amphibians, a third of which are assessed to be threatened by the IUCN (a number which is only likely to increase over time). These species are mostly restricted to mountain tops, where impoverished but enterprising communities impact natural habitats.
Mount Oku in Cameroon – where RZSS is currently working – is one such example. Here, our scientists are working with species including the Lake Oku clawed frog (Xenopus longipes), which lives in only one small lake and is assessed to be Critically Endangered due to the threat of fish introduction. Two other critically endangered frogs also live on Mount Oku, but in the sub-alpine grasslands near the summit: the toad Wolterstorffina chirioi and the spiny puddle frog (Phrynobatrachus chukuchuku).
Where possible, we work to shed light on little known species and their habitats. For example, we have intensified work on burrowing, snake-like caecilian amphibians, which until now have been rarely studied. Similarly, we have explored forests and other habitats which have never or seldom been surveyed. We also help speed up the descriptions, refine taxonomy and understand evolutionary relationships of amphibian species so we know how to prioritise conservation action.
More recently, RZSS has expanded its amphibian research and conservation work to the Budongo Conservation Field Station in Uganda.