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Endangered amphibian returns to city reforestation site

A giant leap towards conservation was made on Tuesday, 10 November, when the eThekwini Municipality’s wetland system at the Buffelsdraai Reforestation Project Site welcomes a number of captive bred Pickersgill’s Reed frogs, an endangered amphibian species, from Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife and Johannesburg City Parks Zoo.

The reintroduction of the almost extinct Hyperolius pickersgilli species to its natural habitat forms part of an ongoing project aimed at rejuvenating the species. It is also a step towards achieving the Department of Environmental Affair’s objective of improving the conservation status of the endangered amphibian.

The Hyperolius pickersgilli is currently in the Endangered Red List status and its reintroduction is a step towards bolstering its status, ultimately to Least Concern.

The 50 frogs released form part of a total of 400 hundred frogs to be released at the Buffelsdraai Reforestation Project Site.

Senior Manager for the Restoration Ecology Branch under the eThekwini Municipality’s Environmental Planning and Climate Protection Department, Dr Errol Douwes said the reintroduction of the frogs will hugely benefit the City.

“The more biodiversity you have, the better the environment functions and subsequently provides its services. Wetlands are good for storing water and contribute to a great quality of water which has major benefits including in agriculture. But for them to be fully functional, we need to have all the pieces of the puzzle functioning together and that is the role that the Pickersgill’s Reed frogs will play,” said Dr Douwes.

KZN Wildlife’s Dr Adrian Armstrong said the Biodiversity Management Plan which was gazzetted in 2017 has allowed for a variety of partners to work together with the common goal of conservation.

“When the plan was being drawn, the Pickersgill’s Reed frog’s conservation status was Critically Endangered. We signed a memorandum of understanding with the Johannesburg City Parks Zoo to breed the species and obtain offspring to release in the suitable environment. We hope to release a total of 1000 in each release site,” he said.

The Pickersgill’s Reed frog’s status has significantly improved to Endangered since the inception of the programme and the goal is to reach a status of Least Concern, said Dr Armstrong.

Mukondi Masithi from the Department of Environmental Affairs, Forestry and Fisheries, who said the reintroduction was the fourth to be conducted, emphasized that the reintroduction of endangered species is not only beneficial to the environment but also to the communities around it.

“Conservation provides for ecosystem services not only for the environment but also socio-economic benefits and economic growth through creating job opportunities,” said Masithi.

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