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Conserving hyperendemic amphibians

Conserving hyperendemic Udzungwa-restricted amphibians

This research aims to identify the conservation needs of some of Africa’s rarest amphibian species in Uzungwa Scarp: one of Tanzania’s most threatened forests.


Worldwide population declines due to habitat loss and disease make amphibians the most highly threatened class of vertebrates. The East African Highlands are rich in amphibian species but many have hardly been studied and new species are regularly discovered. This is the situation in the Udzungwa Mountains in Tanzania where the area’s many unique species are threatened by the demands of a rapidly growing human population for land, firewood and bushmeat.

The Uzungwa Scarp Forest Reserve, in the southern Udzungwas, is one of the highest-ranking sites in the East African Highlands for both endemic and threatened vertebrate species. This unique fauna includes numerous strictly endemic amphibians including species known only from tiny areas (<1km²). The potentially ‘hyperendemic’ status of these species leaves them highly vulnerable to environmental change.

Wild Planet Trust began surveying amphibians in Uzungwa Scarp in 2010 to determine the extent of occurrence and conservation status for three of these narrowly endemic species: Wendy’s forest toad (Nectophrynoides wendyae; critically endangered), Poynton’s forest toad(N. poyntoni ; critically endangered) and Kihanga reed frog (Hyperolius kihangensis; endangered). Sadly, these surveys have failed to detect Poynton’s forest toad; although, working with Manchester Metropolitan University, new populations of the other two species have been discovered alongside other amphibians potentially new to science.


Tonelli, E., Bowkett, A.E., Menegon, M., Lyakurwa, J.V., Loader, S.P., Harris, W.E. and Marsden, S.J. (2017). Uncovering the outstanding amphibian diversity and endemism of the Udzungwa Escarpment. Proceedings of the 11th TAWIRI Scientific Conference, Arusha, Tanzania pp 53–67.

Barratt, C., Tonelli, E., Menegon, M., Doggart, N., Bowkett, A., Harris, W.E., Howell, K., Ngalason, W. and Loader, S. (2014). Fragmented habitats and species: the challenges of amphibian conservation in Tanzania today. FrogLog 111: 63–64.

Seki, H.A., Bowkett, A.E., Bungard, M.J., Doggart, N. and Menegon, M. (2011). A survey for three threatened, narrow endemic amphibian species in the Uzungwa Scarp Forest Reserve, Tanzania. Oryx 45: 474.