Rare ghost frog found at Cockscomb mountain

2018-01-25 06:00
=A colony of the endangered ghost frogs was discovered in the Cockcomb mountains near Uitenhage.            Photo:SUPPLIED

=A colony of the endangered ghost frogs was discovered in the Cockcomb mountains near Uitenhage. Photo:SUPPLIED

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Forest plantations are threatening one of the oldest creatures on the planet, but there is hope for the ghost frog also known as the Spookpadda.

The discovery of a fifth limited population of the Hewitts ghost frog in the Cockscomb mountains has seen their International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) status drop from Critically Endangered to Endangered.

But it is still at serious risk of disappearing, leaving no room for complacency.

Amphibians face the threat of extinction more than most other species of animal or plant, which is even more jarring when one learns how long they have been here. The ghost frog is a perfect example, first emerging 160 million years ago - 10 million years before even birds took flight.

Forest plantations are established in green belts that favour tree crops, making forestry companies the custodians to South Africa’s natural heritage. This responsibility is front of mind for MTO Forestry, in particular when it comes to the very rare Hewitts ghost frog.

In 1988, distinct colonies of these rare animals were found across South Africa. They are under real danger of disappearing owing to the conditions caused by logging. Until 2009, ghost frog colonies were found in just four perennial rivers - the Geelhoutboom, Martins, Kleinrivier and Diepkloof - that weave through the Elandsberg Mountain Range in the Eastern Cape.

The recent discovery of a fifth colony in the Cockscomb Mountains has significantly improved the ghost frog’s odds for survival.

MTO Group CEO Lawrence Polkinghorne made the company’s environmental goals clear when he said: “MTO remains committed to finding ways to minimise our impact on the environment. We continue to monitor our actions and will as far as possible adapt our practices where able to improve habitats of keystone species.”

In 1999 MTO commissioned and funded several studies to establish the health and situation of these ghost frog colonies. Since then it has evolved a set of practices that minimize the impact on the frogs and boost their numbers.

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