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Long-term data for endemic frog genera reveal potential conservation crisis in the Bale Mountains, Ethiopia

  • David J. Gower (a1), Roman K. Aberra (a2), Silvia Schwaller (a3), Malcolm J. Largen (a4), Ben Collen (a5), Stephen Spawls (a6), Michele Menegon (a7), Breda M. Zimkus (a8), Rafael de Sá (a9), Abebe A. Mengistu (a3), Fikirte Gebresenbet (a10), Robin D. Moore (a11), Samy A. Saber (a10) and Simon P. Loader (a3)...

Populations of many frogs have declined alarmingly in recent years, placing nearly one third of the > 6,000 species under threat of extinction. Declines have been attributed largely to habitat loss, environmental degradation and/or infectious diseases such as chytridiomycosis. Many frogs undergo dramatic natural population fluctuations such that long-term data are required to determine population trends without undue influence of stochastic factors. We present long-term quantitative data (individuals encountered per person hour of searching) for four monotypic frog genera endemic to an Afromontane region of exceptional importance but growing conservation concern: one endemic to the Ethiopian highlands (Spinophrynoides osgoodi) and three endemic to the Bale Mountains (Altiphrynoides malcolmi, Balebreviceps hillmani, Ericabatrachus baleensis), collected during 15 field trips to the Bale Mountains between 1971 and 2009. Only a single confirmed sighting of S. osgoodi has been made since 1995. The other three species have also declined, at least locally. E. baleensis appears to have been extirpated at its type locality and at the same site B. hillmani has declined. These declines are in association with substantial habitat degradation caused by a growing human population. Chytrid fungus has been found on several frog species in Bale, although no dead or moribund frogs have been encountered. These results expose an urgent need for more amphibian surveys in the Bale Mountains. Additionally, we argue that detrimental human exploitation must be halted immediately in at least some parts of the Harenna Forest if a conservation crisis is to be averted.

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