Rose’s Mountain Toad – Capensibufo rosei
The Rose’s Mountain Toad is endemic to the Table Mountain National Park and listed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature). It is a unique Amphibian species as it is the only one in Southern Africa to lack a Tympanum and cannot hear (it also does not “croak”).
Due to a lack of resources not much is known about this specific species, although research efforts by SANBI have steadily increased over the last 10 years. In the early 1980’s there were about 10 locations across the Cape Peninsula where these toads had been recorded, sadly now there’s only 2 (Silvermine and Cape Point). Their disappearance from these sites are linked to urbanization, alien vegetation infestation and lack of fire regime. The taciturn nature of the species provides some hope that there may be some overlooked populations on the Cape Peninsula.
Rose’s Mountain Toads are about 2 cm in length and predominantly grey and brown in colouration, which makes them very difficult to find between dense fynbos vegetation. Other species in the Order Anura (amphibians without tails) can be located and identified via their distinct calls. In Fact most frogs and toads rely on their vocal abilities during the mating season to breed successfully. It seems somewhat of a mystery how Rose’s Mountain Toads find each other through the thick vegetation, but they do. Each year when the planets virtually align these toads will breed. That is to say breeding kicks off with the waxing moon and peaks on the full moon. The soil needs to be well saturated in order for puddles to form that are on average between 1-2 cm deep and most of the time not wider than your dinner plate. They seem to breed at the same location every year, in a patch of veld about the size of a tennis court, in random puddles. These breeding puddles will need to retain water for the roughly 6 weeks it will take from when the eggs are laid, until they have fully metamorphosed. The tadpoles tend to accelerate their development when temperatures increase and the puddles start drying up, but they can only grow so fast. Breeding success is especially vulnerable because of the drought conditions currently experienced in Cape Town.
Management of the species
SANBI researchers are monitoring their breeding successes and are working on a species management plan. They are also surveying areas in the hope of finding more breeding populations on the Cape Peninsula. A major threat to the toads’ survival is bush encroachment. SANParks have prioritized Alien vegetation clearing in and around breeding populations. A natural fire regime is vital as moribund veld can be just as negative to their survival as too frequent fires. The natural predation of toads and tadpoles is also a threat, especially during the breeding period. Hopefully researchers will be able to continue to monitor the success rate of the species and implement management strategies to ensure that the Rose’s Mountain Toad does not become extinct.
The next time you spot a little frog or toad on your hike, post it on ispot, Instagram or send it to someone at SANParks or SANBI to identify. You never know it could be something special, after all there are 4 species of amphibian endemic to the Cape Peninsula, 2 of which are Critically Endangered.