Development threatens SA frog

2012-08-06 10:35
Increased tourism and growing residential developments may threaten the survival of the Desert Rain frog. (Alan Channing)

Increased tourism and growing residential developments may threaten the survival of the Desert Rain frog. (Alan Channing)

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Port Nolloth - Increased tourism and growing residential developments may threaten the survival of the Desert Rain frog (Breviceps macrops) a herpetologist has said.

"They are already starting to build houses in prime habitat, not just in habitat where they might occur, but in places where they occur at high density," Professor Alan Channing told News24.

The Rain frog is one of the only frogs that have the ability to live within 10m of the beachfront areas. According to Channing the frog has a unique set of characteristics that make them successful in this habitat.

"They are well adapted for burrowing. They've got flanges on their back feet which act like little spades, so they can dig in backward into the sand. They also have a belly patch which is an area with lots of blood vessels and capillaries through which they can take up water through the soil," he said.

Channing said that the frogs form part of simple ecosystem which may be sensitive.

Threat

"There are desert plants which are eaten by beetles and the frogs eat the beetles, the frogs are then fed on by birds, snakes, and small mammals. So they are part of the energy flow from plants through to larger mammals."

The IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) has listed the Desert Rain frog as vulnerable, which represents a high risk of endangerment in the wild.

The initial threat to the frog populations was Diamond mining at the coastal areas. Prior studies have shown that the now declining industry has caused extensive population fragmentation.

Luxury housing developments like Kai Kai coastal estate have now targeted the remaining beachfront areas and represent a direct threat.

Kai Kai managing director, Jimmy du Toit, who is in possession of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) said there is reference to the existence of the frog in the dunes in the area.

"It wasn't dealt with in depth. It was considered and certain recommendations were made. Culverts were created for movement of animals and roads were designed in accordance with the assessment," he said.

From a conservation point of view, Channing suggests that the population would survive if development within 50m of the beachfront were discontinued.

Channing's five year study, published in the African Journal of Herpetology, found that the Desert Rain frog should be able to recover rapidly from disturbance.


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