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Mohamed bin Zayed Species project number 12254928

Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation (Project No. 12254928) - Pickersgill's Reed Frog - Awarded $12,000 on February 15, 2013

This project is focussed on a narrow strip within 20 km of the eastern coast of the KwaZulu-Natal Province, South Africa and is focussed on one of the most threatened frog species in South Africa and the only Critically Endangered frog species in the KwaZulu-Natal Province. This species is a habitat specialist, occuring in coastal wetland, which is also classified as Critically Endangered. The large majority of this habitat occurs within privately or community owned land and securing it, ideally through biodiversity stewardship will thus require engagement with multiple stakeholders. By protecting these wetlands habitats, not only will some of the last remaining habitat for the Pickersgill's Reed Frog be secured, but also that of numerous other species, as well as securing essential ecosystem services provided by coastal wetlands.

 

The workshop for the development of the Biodiversity Management Plan for Pickersgill’s Reed Frog (BMP-S) was held on 5 & 6 September 2013. This saw over 40 delegates representing 15 organisations including government, NGOs, conservation authorities, ex-situ facilities, industry and the public. The BMP-S is aimed at identifying actions that need to be taken in order to mitigate threats facing the species in question, and identifying the role players that are responsible for implementing these actions. During the workshop 6 major threats were identified and relevant actions discussed for each. The comments on the first draft of the BMP-S have been received and will be collated and re-circulated to all parties concerned in March prior to being submitted to the Department of Environmental Affairs. This was a very proactive meeting and enabled key relationships to be strengthened.

The 2013-2014 fieldseason commenced with the first rains of the season in September. The species was confirmed at all historical sites visited, and four new subpopulations were located during the course of the season. This indicates that additional populations will continue to be discovered through ongoing surveying and contribute to the objective of downlisting the status of Pickersgill’s Reed Frog from critically endangered to endangered or vulnerable. However, all new sites discovered occur outside of Protected Areas and face threat from development and habitat degradation.

Samples for genetic analysis were collected from 10 sites across the species range. These include both tissue samples and swab samples for analysis of the amphibian chytrid fungus. These have been sent to the laboratory at the National Zoological Gardens, Pretoria, South Africa for analysis. Results for this component of the study will contribute to understanding whether habitat fragmentation has had an effect on the overall population dynamics of the species, and will guide possible future reintroductions and translocations of Pickersgill’s Reed Frog.

 

The monitoring method for Pickersgill’s Reed Frog was implemented at two sites during the 2013-2014 breeding season. This involves call monitoring of the male advertisement call to give an estimate of relative abundance. The method involves monitoring points along transects within the wetland. It is also useful for revealing additional information about the species including preferred breeding conditions, habitat utilisation and behaviour. The method was tested at Prospecton in order to give a rough population estimate as part of a student project, and at Simbithi as part of a volunteer citizen science project. 

The project has built key relationships with relevant land-owners in order to secure and manage habitat in the long-term through land-owner agreements, such as but not limited to, Biodiversity Stewardship. We are working with these land-owners to develop site-specific conservation plans, including protection of wetland buffer zones. Through the BMP-S habitat for Pickersgill’s Reed Frog will be prioritised for municipal and provincial planning and we are also working toward developing natural resource management plans for priority sites (i.e. removal of alien vegetation, and wetland restoration). Our collaboration with ex-situ organisations on the captive breeding component of the project will help establish assurance populations and contribute to research. The long-term goal of the captive breeding component is relocations/ reintroductions into secure habitat.

 

 

Great strides have been taken in terms of improving public awareness about Pickersgill’s Reed Frog (and frogs in general in South Africa). The species has been included in an overall awareness campaign as part of a national awareness day for frogs in South Africa. See www.leapdayforfrogs.org.za. Campaign material related to Pickersgill’s Reed Frog will be included in various print media as well as at King Shaka International Airport, Durban in the run-up to the event. Various events will be held on the day, including one specifically focused on Pickersgill’s Reed Frog.

 

 



Project 12254928 location - South Africa, Africa