Local rare frog found after 54 years of search

ZIMBABWE has found a rare frog (Cave or sinkhole squeaker) which was last seen in 1962, long thought to have gone extinct.

According to Robert Hopkins who led the searching team, the frog is known only from the Western Chimanimani Mountains, and was located in 1962 at an altitude above 1500 meters.

“This species has not been seen since 1962 (54 years ago). Various subsequent surveys and searches have been conducted at yearly periods post the independence war.

“Arthroleptis troglodytes were considered to be the prime target species. It was described as a small (maximum 27mm) Arthroleptid, it is a direct breeder, meaning it does not have a tadpole phase, the young develop in the egg, and hatch as fully formed frogs.

Hopkins said in 1962 16 specimens were collected and are housed in various museums in the world.
“The micro habitats consisted mainly of caves, sink holes and under rocks in grassland, and at an altitude of 1500 meters and above. It is extremely localised in distribution, and as gold panning and human activities are increasing daily, along the Bundi river valley, it was considered to be extinct in the wilds or near extinct, and was listed in the as critically endangered (B1ab(v) + 2ab(v) (Poynton and Channing 2004.

“At a meeting of Herpetologist in Cape Town in November 2015 ( I was a member of this meeting); it was prioritised as one of the top ten southern African species in need of conservation research (Amphibian Ark 2016) and it’s rediscovery must be considered as a high priority, and to breed this species ex-situ must be considered as extremely important. This decision was based on my input, I had said that I had been looking for this species since 1998, without success, but wanted to try again at the end of 2016.

Hopikins said it was a great surprise to found the frog after all these years. “As a result we were able to locate three male and one female (gravid) specimens. DNA clippings were taken, and these will be sent to Professor Alan Channing of the University of Stellenbosch in the Cape for analysis... A great deal of data was gathered, and most interesting of all, is that I am able to state that this species is alive and well on the summit of Chimanimani, and is breeding well, there seems to be a very viable population.

“My greatest concern now is that the scientific world will flood in to capture and illegally export specimens from Chimanimani, and I ask the National Parks to be vigilant to this threat. I have requested members at Outward Bound School to assist and they have readily agreed to do this. I will be approaching the Mohamed bin Zayed Conservation Fund to assist and possibly fund an operation to conserve Arthroleptis troglodytes, National Parks may want to inform me what they would require for this operation.”

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