497

Table Mountain Ghost Frog

Africa

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Heleophryne rosei

Endangered

The existence of the Table Mountain Ghost Frog is threatened due to the following reasons:

  • Erosion, overgrazing, and frequent fires
  • Construction of dams
  • Uncontrolled spreading of alien vegetation
  • Promotion of ecotourism
  • Water abstraction

One of the only seven frog species of the Heleophrynidae family, the Table Mountain Ghost Frog or Rose’s Ghost Frog is an endemic amphibian of South Africa’s Western Cape. They only live within an 8-km² range of streams, valleys, and wooded ravines in the Table Mountain, including the Skeleton Gorge Hiking Trail, hence the name.

Considered to be a trogloxene (or cave species) because of living in underground habitats at some part of its lifecycle, the Table Mountain Ghost Frog is characterized by a flat, easily-compressible green body with distinct red or purple blotches.

This endemic South African amphibian has a mildly poisonous skin which is why it is not considered as a food source. However, its fast diminishing population which is highly dependent on year-round water supply is threatened by significant changes in its very limited natural habitat.

Constructions of dams and water abstraction are disrupting its normal reproduction capabilities. Excessive erosion due to creation of hiking trails as well as Fynbos shrubs suppression through fires are also major culprits for their survival. Then there’s the planting of non-indigenous plants (for forestry purposes) in its prime habitat which can dry up the streams.

Though the Table Mountain Ghost Frog is a strong swimmer, it cannot see very well and is also unable to jump quickly away from danger. This means that the intensive eco-tourism is another significant threat to its existence because of an increase of visiting guests on a regular basis.