Sagalla Caecilian (Boulengerula niedeni)
Mohamed bin Zayed Species project number 11251778
The Sagalla Caecilian Boulengerula niedeni, is an elongated wormlike brownish limbless soil burrowing amphibian about 300 mm in body length. It is endemic to Sagalla Hill one of the mountain blocks of the Taita Hills. In Sagalla Hill Boulengerula niedeni is found in low density in farms and patches of indigenous forests from elevations of about 1000m to about 1500m. The caecilian prefers moist and organically rich soft soils. In farmlands, these caecilians can be found mainly in soils rich in organic manure or under organic debris, terrace base and along the edge of streams while in the indigenous forest it is common in decomposing dead logs, base of palm plants and forest debris. It is currently globally categorized by IUCN as Critically Endangered (CR) B1ab (iii); (www.iucnredlist.org/amphibians). By preferring organically fertile moist soft soils its major threat is soil erosion and soil compaction (hardening). Hence all activities that promotes soil erosion, hardening and drying of soil, results to decline in the caecilian population. Currently the high slopes of Sagalla Hill are covered by exotic Eucalyptus and pine trees planted around 1956. During their growth over the years Eucalyptus trees in particular (due to their water draining habits) have resulted in drying out of water springs and hardening of soil surface reducing the habitat suitable for the Sagalla caecilian.
Recognizing that the Sagalla caecilian prefers organically moist fertile soil means that the species is a symbol or an indicator of good healthy soil required by the local farmers for food crop production. With this knowledge it means both the local farmers and the caecilian require organically rich soil for their survival. There is therefore a mutualism relationship since the caecilian benefits from the good organically rich soils free of erosion, maintained by the local people which are good for crop production. However, the challenge is how to convince the local people to conserve its environment given that to them there are other daily pressing issues for their survival and the caecilian has no intrinsic value (direct tangible benefit). For the species to be conserved and its habitat restored, conservation education and awareness is paramount. The on-going project is trying to inform the locals on the tangible threats to their survival like soil erosion and water siphoning effects of Eucalyptus which they can do a cost-benefit analysis over time and which are as well the main threats to the Sagalla caecilian. In the process of correcting the causes of these threats they will be indirectly conserving the Sagalla caecilian by restoring its habitat. Hence the project is providing a link to show how the caecilian is good to the environment as a biological gauge or symbol of organically fertile and moist soils.
Project 11251778 location - Kenya, Africa