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Creating a Safe Haven for the Endangered Pickersgill’s Reed Frog

South Africa

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  • Kloof Frog. Photo by EWT

Totaling 800 acres, two Key Biodiversity Areas in eastern South Africa host numerous species of birds, amphibians and reptiles, and encompass three highly threatened ecosystems. Importantly, these two sites form part of the last stronghold for the Endangered Pickersgill’s Reed Frog and the KwaZulu Dwarf Chameleon. The reed frog is currently protected at only two of its known sites while 80 percent of the population falls outside of official protected areas. For the species’ survival, it is critical that its range becomes secured.

Rainforest Trust is working with local partner Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) to help protect key wetlands in the KwaZulu-Natal Province of South Africa that are priorities for both water catchment functions and species such as the Pickersgill’s Reed Frog. The creation of Adam’s Mission Wetland Nature Reserve and Isipingo Wetland Environmental Conservation Reserve through land acquisition and Biodiversity Stewardship Programs are two strong examples of how conservation organizations can work with local communities and stakeholders to protect indispensable sites for biodiversity and human wellbeing in the urban environment.

Biodiversity

  • Kloof Frog eggs. Photo by EWT

These two proposed target sites are globally important locations for amphibians and reptiles, including the Endangered Pickersgill’s Reed Frog and Endangered Kloof Frog. Small and secretive, Pickersgill’s Reed Frogs spend the majority of their days blending into the vegetation at the base of reeds, and the agile Kloof Frog is able to move effectively over vertical rock surfaces and fast-flowing streams because of adhesive toe-tips. The Adam’s Mission site is the only area in which these two frog species are known to co-occur within such close proximity.

Additionally, the KwaZulu Dwarf Chameleon is found in the Isipingo site and may even occur in the Adam’s Mission area. This chameleon ranges in color from dark brown to pale tan and inhabits vegetation such as high grasses, trees and urban gardens. The eThekwini Municipal Area is also home to more than 7,000 species of vascular plants, 25 percent of which are endemic.

Challenges

  • Isipingo pathway. Photo by EWT

Currently, neither site has official protection of any kind. The biggest threat to the Adam’s Mission area is proposed housing developments, which in some cases could encroach into the wetland boundary and directly threaten critical habitat. The proximity of housing also threatens the area with the potential invasion of nonnative vegetation. For the Isipingo site, there is a high risk of contamination through waste and pollution, as well as encroachment of the wetland area for subsistence agriculture.

Communities

  • Local community members. Photo by EWT.

Surrounding the Adam’s Mission site is a population of approximately 9,800 people. This area is governed by tribal leaders through traditional authority, and EWT has established relationships with community leaders who have expressed a strong interest in protecting the wetlands. In addition to their biodiversity value and protection against flooding, the wetlands play an important role in spiritual rituals for the local community. Through agreements negotiated with the local community, this area will be protected through a Biodiversity Stewardship Program. There is also potential for the development of ecotourism and training of local biodiversity guides from the community, which will contribute to sustainable livelihoods.

The more urbanized Isipingo wetland priority area is adjacent to a community of approximately 19,520 people. EWT is working in the area to establish relationships with local councilors and community members, and has conservation agreements with local subsistence gardeners to prevent any further encroachment into the wetlands.

Solutions

  • Habitat restoration. Photo by EWT

Rainforest Trust and EWT are working to immediately acquire the most important areas through land purchases to establish Adam’s Mission Wetland Nature Reserve and Isipingo Wetland Environmental Conservation Reserve. In addition, EWT will work with local entities to protect the areas through a Biodiversity Stewardship Program, which recognizes landowners and communities as the custodians of the habitats and ecosystems of their own lands. All land acquisition and Biodiversity Stewardship Program areas will be added into the Durban Municipal Open Space System (D’MOSS). This Biodiversity Stewardship Program will be a prime example of how governments, communities and non-governmental organizations can come together to address complex threats to biodiversity.

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