Hyperolius pickersgilli 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Amphibia Anura Hyperoliidae

Scientific Name: Hyperolius pickersgilli Raw, 1982
Common Name(s):
English Pickersgill's Reed Frog
Taxonomic Source(s): Frost, D.R. 2016. Amphibian Species of the World: an Online Reference. Version 6.0 (31 March 2016). New York, USA. Available at:

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Endangered B1ab(ii,iii)+2ab(ii,iii) ver 3.1
Year Published: 2016
Date Assessed: 2016-08-04
Assessor(s): IUCN SSC Amphibian Specialist Group & South African Frog Re-assessment Group (SA-FRoG)
Reviewer(s): Angulo, A.
Contributor(s): Channing, A., Rebelo, A., Turner, A.A., de Villiers, A., Harvey, J., Tarrant, J., Measey, J., Tolley, K., Minter, L., du Preez, L., Burger, M., Cunningham, M., Davies, S., Hopkins, R., Conradie, W. & Chapeta, Y.
Facilitator/Compiler(s): Rebelo, A., Measey, J., Neam, K. & Hobin, L.
Listed as Endangered because its extent of occurrence (EOO) is 4,768 km2, area of occupancy (AOO) is 12 km2, its distribution is severely fragmented, and there is continuing decline in its AOO and the extent and quality of habitat.
Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:This species is endemic to the coast of KwaZulu-Natal Province, South Africa, and is found within 15 km of the coast up to 380 m asl. It was previously thought to range from Warner Beach in the south to St Lucia village in the north; however, it has now been recorded from additional localities and occurs from Sezela to St Lucia village (Tarrant and Armstrong 2013). Given the distribution of existing subpopulations, there are 12 threat-defined locations. Its extent of occurrence (EOO) is 4,768 kmand its area of occupancy (AOO) is 12 km2.
Countries occurrence:
South Africa (KwaZulu-Natal)
Additional data:
Estimated area of occupancy (AOO) - km2:12.02Continuing decline in area of occupancy (AOO):Yes
Estimated extent of occurrence (EOO) - km2:4767.84
Continuing decline in extent of occurrence (EOO):No
Number of Locations:12
Upper elevation limit (metres):380
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:The spatial distribution of this species is considered to be severely fragmented due to coastal development in the past three decades,  more than 50% of individuals are in small and isolated patches and more than 50% of subpopulations are considered non-viable. Increased survey effort has verified the status of historical sites and confirmed the presence of the species at a total of 22 localities (Tarrant and Armstrong 2013). However, only three of these occur in protected areas and the remainder are at threat of degradation or loss.

Initial results from a population genetics study based on mitochondrial DNA sequencing and microsatellite genotyping of samples from 12 localities, representing six subpopulations, indicate that gene flow between the subpopulations is not restricted and there is relatively high genetic diversity between subpopulations (D.L. Dalton et al. unpubl. data). These results likely represent a historical ability to migrate, which is now severely hampered in the current landscape (J. Tarrant pers. comm. August 2016). Two subpopulations were identified with a high degree of admixture with other subpopulations. However, various analyses found the observed population structure to be weak, a common trend found in amphibian populations in small geographic scales with limited distributions (J. Tarrant pers. comm. August 2016). Additional sampling is required from these subpopulations as well as the remainder for which no samples were obtained.
Current Population Trend:Unknown
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented:Yes

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:The species is a habitat specialist occurring primarily in Indian Ocean Coastal Belt Vegetation Group 2, which is Critically Endangered and poorly protected. It requires perennial wetlands comprised of very dense reed beds at low altitudes (Raw 1982, Armstrong 2001, Bishop 2004). It also requires an understory of thick vegetation, such as Snakeroot (Persicaria attenuata), from which males call and taller broad-leaved vegetation, including the Common Reed (Phragmites australis), Bulrushes (Typha capensis), and sedges (including Cyperus dives, C. latifolius and C. papyrus) on which to lay its eggs (Raw 1982, Bowman 2011, Tarrant and Armstrong 2013). It is associated with deeper areas of water within wetland systems (20-80 cm) (Trenor 2014). It is seldom found at the same breeding sites as the abundant Hyperolius marmoratus.
Systems:Terrestrial; Freshwater
Continuing decline in area, extent and/or quality of habitat:Yes

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: There are no records of this species being utilized.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Less than 1% of this species' range is currently estimated to fall within protected areas (Armstrong 2001). It is threatened primarily by habitat loss caused by urbanisation, afforestation and drainage for agricultural and urban development and more recently by dune mining and large-scale industrial developments. The increased spread of alien vegetation is responsible for the degradation of several breeding sites. The amphibian chytrid fungus, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, has been detected in some subpopulations and is an important consideration for proposed captive breeding and translocation plans (Tarrant et al. 2013).

Many of the historically known sites have been eliminated by either sugar cane or eucalyptus plantations, which directly impact on breeding habitat through wetland drainage and planting within wetland buffers, and cause a drying out of wetland areas (Johnson and Raw 1987, Bishop 2004). Two large reedbed areas (known localities), which in 2015 were in good condition, have since been drained for agriculture by the local communities, essentially rendering those wetlands completely transformed (J. Tarrant pers. comm. August 2015). It has not yet been verified whether the species still persists there.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Conservation Actions 
This species occurs in the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, the Umlalazi Nature Reserve, Ongoye Forest Reserve and the Twinstreams-Mtunzini Natural Heritage Site.

Following a period in which little research was done on H. pickersgilli, recent years have seen increasing research attention being paid to this threatened species which has included obtaining accurate information on threats and determining the status of all sites and estimating population size. Such research will benefit conservation actions. Specific recent research projects have included surveys of distribution and development of a predictive model to guide additional surveys (Tarrant and Armstrong 2013), and a study done on the potential impact of noise from airplanes landing at King Shaka International Airport on the Mount Moreland population (Kruger et al. submitted).

At the Amphibian Species Prioritisation Workshop held in Johannesburg in 2008, H. pickersgilli was identified as a species requiring ex situ rescue and supplementation. An ex-situ breeding programme was initiated by the Johannesburg Zoo in January 2012 with the collection of 30 individuals from two sites (Mount Moreland and Isipingo). Since then, SAAMBR has coordinated the APP (African Preservation Programme) for this species under the auspices of PAAZAB). The National Zoological Gardens in Pretoria are also involved. The first aim of the ex-situ breeding programme is to develop correct husbandry practices for the species. Ultimately the goal is to have the ex-situ component contributing to the overall conservation of the species through supplementation and establishing viable populations in the wild. 

In-situ research initiated by NWU in 2008 on H. pickersgilli coincided with the prioritisation of the species for ex-situ work. As a continuation of the NWU research, The Endangered Wildlife Trust’s Threatened Amphibian Programme (EWT-TAP) was initiated and the programme has included H. pickersgilli as a priority species for conservation action. Alien clearing and restoration work is now underway for four known sites in the eThekwini area, including “Froggy Pond” at Mount Moreland, which hosts the largest population outside of a protected area, and is some of the last remaining intact Indian Ocean Coastal Belt wetland habitat. This site is receiving increased conservation attention and is on track to becoming an officially protected area. Discovery of the species at another site on the south coast has resulted in the prevention of a proposed development there and will be receiving improved management and monitoring. Other conservation actions include the development of Biodiversity Management Plan, ongoing surveys, development and testing of a monitoring protocol, a population genetics study and an ongoing awareness and education campaign. 

Land owner agreements are also in the process of being drawn up for protection and management of all sites for conservation management. 

Research Needed
Research is still required to determine population sizes, life history and ecology (in particular dispersal potential), followed by appropriate monitoring of both population and habitat (for which monitoring protocols have been developed and tested).

Classifications [top]

3. Shrubland -> 3.4. Shrubland - Temperate
suitability:Suitable season:resident 
4. Grassland -> 4.4. Grassland - Temperate
suitability:Suitable season:resident 
5. Wetlands (inland) -> 5.4. Wetlands (inland) - Bogs, Marshes, Swamps, Fens, Peatlands
suitability:Suitable season:resident 
5. Wetlands (inland) -> 5.7. Wetlands (inland) - Permanent Freshwater Marshes/Pools (under 8ha)
suitability:Suitable season:resident 
5. Wetlands (inland) -> 5.8. Wetlands (inland) - Seasonal/Intermittent Freshwater Marshes/Pools (under 8ha)
suitability:Suitable season:resident 

In-Place Research, Monitoring and Planning
In-Place Land/Water Protection and Management
  Conservation sites identified:Yes, over part of range
  Occur in at least one PA:Yes
In-Place Species Management
  Subject to ex-situ conservation:Yes
In-Place Education
  Subject to recent education and awareness programmes:Yes
1. Residential & commercial development -> 1.1. Housing & urban areas
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.1. Ecosystem conversion
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

1. Residential & commercial development -> 1.2. Commercial & industrial areas
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.1. Ecosystem conversion
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

1. Residential & commercial development -> 1.3. Tourism & recreation areas
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.1. Ecosystem conversion
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

2. Agriculture & aquaculture -> 2.1. Annual & perennial non-timber crops -> 2.1.3. Agro-industry farming
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.1. Ecosystem conversion
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

2. Agriculture & aquaculture -> 2.2. Wood & pulp plantations -> 2.2.2. Agro-industry plantations
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.1. Ecosystem conversion
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

3. Energy production & mining -> 3.2. Mining & quarrying
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.1. Ecosystem conversion
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

7. Natural system modifications -> 7.2. Dams & water management/use -> 7.2.4. Abstraction of surface water (unknown use)
♦ timing:Ongoing ♦ scope:Unknown ♦ severity:Unknown ⇒ Impact score:Unknown 
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.1. Ecosystem conversion

8. Invasive and other problematic species, genes & diseases -> 8.1. Invasive non-native/alien species/diseases -> 8.1.1. Unspecified species
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

8. Invasive and other problematic species, genes & diseases -> 8.1. Invasive non-native/alien species/diseases -> 8.1.2. Named species [ Unspecified Eucalyptus ]
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

9. Pollution -> 9.3. Agricultural & forestry effluents -> 9.3.4. Type Unknown/Unrecorded
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

1. Research -> 1.2. Population size, distribution & trends
1. Research -> 1.3. Life history & ecology
3. Monitoring -> 3.1. Population trends

Bibliography [top]

Armstrong, A.J. 2001. Conservation status of herpetofauna endemic to KwaZulu-Natal. Journal of Herpetology 50(2): 79-96.

Bishop, P.J. 2004. Hyperolius pickersgilli species account. In: Minter L.R., Burger M., Harrison J.A., Braack H.H., Bishop P.J. and Kloepfer D. (eds), Atlas and Red Data Book of the Frogs of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland. , pp. 143-145. Smithsonian Institute, Washington DC.

Bowman, R.M. 2011. Distribution, Ecology and Biomonitoring Management of Pickersgill’s Reed Frog (Hyperolius pickersgilli). North-West University, Potchefstroom.

Channing, A. 2001. Amphibians of Central and Southern Africa. Cornell University Press, Ithaca and London.

du Preez, L. and Carruthers, V. 2009. A Complete Guide to the Frogs of Southern Africa. Struik Nature, Cape Town.

IUCN. 2016. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2016-3. Available at: (Accessed: 07 December 2016).

Johnson, P. and Raw, L.R.G. 1987. The herpetofauna of sugarcane fields and their environs on the north coast of Natal. Journal of the Herpetological Association of Africa 36: 11-18.

Lambiris, A.J.L. 1989. A review of the amphibians of Natal. Lammergeyer 39: 1-210.

Minter, L.R., Burger, M., Harrison, J.A., Braack, H.H., Bishop, P.J. and Knoepfer, D. 2004. Atlas and Red Data Book of the Frogs of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland. SI/MAB Series No. 9, Washington, D.C.

Passmore, N.I. and Carruthers, V.C. 1995. South African Frogs, 2nd Edition. Southern Book Publishers and Witwatersrand University Press, Johannesburg.

Poynton, J.C. and Broadley, D.G. 1987. Amphibia Zambesiaca. 3. Rhacophoridae and Hyperoliidae. Annals of the Natal Museum 28: 161-229.

Raw, L.R.G. 1982. A new species of reed frog (Amphibia: Hyperoliidae) from the coastal lowlands of Natal, South Africa. Durban Museum Novitates 13: 117-126.

Schiøtz, A. 1999. Treefrogs of Africa. Edition Chimaira, Frankfurt am Main.

South African Frog Re-assessment Group (SA-FRoG) and IUCN SSC Amphibian Specialist Group. 2010. Hyperolius pickersgilli. Available at: . (Accessed: 2 August 2016).

Tarrant, J. and Armstrong, A.J. 2013. Using predictive modelling to guide the conservation of a critically endangered coastal wetland amphibian. Journal for Nature Conservation 21(5): 369-381.

Tarrant, J., Cilliers, D., du Preez, L.H. and Weldon, C. 2013. Spatial assessment of amphibian chytrid fungus (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis) in South Africa confirms endemic and widespread infection. PLoS ONE 8(7): e69591. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0069591.

Trenor, M. 2014. Contributing to the conservation of the critically endangered Pickersgill’s Reed Frog (Hyperolius pickersgilli): baseline data on population estimates and sampling for population genetics. North-West University, Potchefstroom.

Citation: IUCN SSC Amphibian Specialist Group & South African Frog Re-assessment Group (SA-FRoG). 2016. Hyperolius pickersgilli. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T10644A77165927. . Downloaded on 20 August 2018.
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