Heleophryne rosei 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Amphibia Anura Heleophrynidae

Scientific Name: Heleophryne rosei Hewitt, 1925
Common Name(s):
English Table Mountain Ghost 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: Critically Endangered B1ab(iii)+2ab(iii) ver 3.1
Year Published: 2017
Date Assessed: 2016-08-22
Assessor(s): IUCN SSC Amphibian Specialist Group, South African Frog Re-assessment Group (SA-FRoG)
Reviewer(s): Luedtke, J.
Contributor(s): Channing, A., Rebelo, A., Turner, A.A., de Villiers, A., Harvey, J., Tarrant, J., Measey, G.J., Tolley, K., Minter, L., du Preez, L., Burger, M., Cunningham, M.J., Baptista, N., Davies, S., Hopkins, R., Conradie, W. & Chapeta, Y.
Facilitator/Compiler(s): Rebelo, A., Measey, G.J., Hobin, L.
Listed as Critically Endangered because its extent of occurrence (EOO) is 8 km2 and its area of occupancy (AOO) is c. 4 km2, it occurs in a single threat-defined location, and there is a continuing decline in the extent and quality of its habitat.
Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:This species occurs in a single threat-defined location and has a very restricted range as it is endemic to the southern and eastern slopes of Table Mountain, in the Western Cape province, extreme southwestern South Africa, between 240–1,060 m Asl. It was historically recorded from eight streams, but is currently only present in five. It is no longer present in Platteklip Gorge, Valley of the Red Gods and Cecilia streams (A. de Villiers pers. comm. August 2016). The Cecilia subpopulation is considered to have been locally extinct for decades (Minter et al. 2004). Its AOO is around 4 km2 and its EOO is 8 km2.
Countries occurrence:
South Africa (Western Cape)
Additional data:
Estimated area of occupancy (AOO) - km2:3.5Continuing decline in area of occupancy (AOO):No
Estimated extent of occurrence (EOO) - km2:7.87
Continuing decline in extent of occurrence (EOO):No
Number of Locations:1
Lower elevation limit (metres):240
Upper elevation limit (metres):1060
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:Adults of this species are elusive, and are only seen occasionally, whereas tadpoles are typically plentiful where habitat is suitable. Subpopulations on Disa and Original Disa streams are considered stable (Minter et al. 2004; de Villiers unpub. data 2015) as the habitat there is not impacted. The number of tadpoles in Skeleton Gorge may have decreased, but monitoring of tadpole numbers suggests that populations at Windows and Skeleton Gorges are likely stable at present above the water abstraction point (K. A. Tolley, E. Le Roux and A. de Villiers unpub. data 2014). However, during the summer, the stream below abstraction point dries up and is likely to cause declines within the subpopulations at Windows Gorge as tadpoles cannot survive. In recent years, tadpoles were rarely recorded from Nursery Gorge (A. de Villiers, unpub. data 2015). Tadpoles were historically found in Cecelia Gorge, but they have not been recorded since 1980 (Minter et al. 2004) due to heavy land transformation and afforestation around that stream. It is thought that they are locally extinct at that locality (Minter et al. 2004), although it should be noted that the upper reaches of Cecelia were not transformed but have not been searched due to difficulty of access.

At least two of the streams (Windows and Skeleton Gorges) can be considered a single genetic population (K. A. Tolley unpub. data), while other streams have not yet been investigated.
Current Population Trend:Decreasing
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:Adults of this species generally range in both forest and fynbos biomes, breeding in clear perennial streams in ravines on Table Mountain. Adults have been found in damp, sheltered habitat well away from streams, including in caves. The tadpoles require longer than 12 months to complete metamorphosis, and so it is important that there is perennial water to allow the larvae to develop.
Systems:Terrestrial; Freshwater
Continuing decline in area, extent and/or quality of habitat:Yes
Movement patterns:Not a Migrant

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade:

There are no records of this species being utilized.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): The main threats are the spread of alien vegetation, suppression of the natural fire regime in fynbos potentially causing bush encroachment, and the presence of water storage reservoirs on the mountain which can affect the consistency of stream-flow. Soil erosion caused by human pedestrian traffic on hiking paths may be a threat around some of the streams (Skelton Gorge and Nursery Ravine). Water abstraction from Windows Gorge by Kirstenbosch Gardens has resulted in 150 m of habitat loss below the abstraction point and limits the vertical movement of tadpoles in summer when abstraction occurs (K. A. Tolley unpub. data 2015). Monitoring in 2013 showed that c. 27% of the total tadpole counts in Windows Gorge and 24% of metamorphs were below this abstraction point during spring, with these pools becoming dry and vacant of individuals once abstraction began in January 2014 (K. A. Tolley unpub. data 2013). It is presumed that any tadpoles below the abstraction point are eliminated from the population once abstraction begins.

Plantations (for exotic trees) used to be a threat but have now been largely removed so that these no longer pose a risk to the species. Other threats to this species which are listed have not been quantified and assessments of each must be made in order to unify the future conservation effort.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Conservation Actions
This species' entire range is incorporated in the Table Mountain National Park, which is believed to protect more than 70% of the species' population, and the estate of Kirstenbosch National Botanic Gardens (South African National Biodiversity Institute) which has no special protection. The species has been considered Endangered since 1998 (and Critically Endangered since 2004). In 2014, the Table Mountain Ghost Frog Action Group was formed consisting of the main stakeholders, to review the threats and to establish an action based framework for conservation of this species. 

Research and monitoring are being carried out to estimate population size through occupancy modeling, and to establish whether there is connectivity between streams using genetic analyses. Each stream is also being systematically surveyed over their entire lengths to record presence/absences.The monitoring of tadpole populations and threats to stream habitat will continue.

Conservation Needed
High priorities for action relate to rehabilitation of Cecelia Gorge by SANParks, improvement of water quality in Skeleton Gorge, and setting ecological reserves (including improvement of stream habitats below water abstraction points) for Nursery and Windows Gorges.

Research Needed
The relative impact of threats must be researched, and an action plan would allow highlights for areas requiring future work (A. de Villiers pers. comm. August 2016).

Classifications [top]

1. Forest -> 1.4. Forest - Temperate
3. Shrubland -> 3.8. Shrubland - Mediterranean-type Shrubby Vegetation
5. Wetlands (inland) -> 5.1. Wetlands (inland) - Permanent Rivers/Streams/Creeks (includes waterfalls)
7. Caves and Subterranean Habitats (non-aquatic) -> 7.1. Caves and Subterranean Habitats (non-aquatic) - Caves
1. Land/water protection -> 1.1. Site/area protection
1. Land/water protection -> 1.2. Resource & habitat protection
2. Land/water management -> 2.1. Site/area management
2. Land/water management -> 2.3. Habitat & natural process restoration

In-Place Research, Monitoring and Planning
In-Place Land/Water Protection and Management
  Occur in at least one PA:Yes
  Percentage of population protected by PAs (0-100):70-100
In-Place Species Management
In-Place Education
2. Agriculture & aquaculture -> 2.2. Wood & pulp plantations -> 2.2.2. Agro-industry plantations
♦ timing:Past, Unlikely to Return    
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.1. Ecosystem conversion
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

6. Human intrusions & disturbance -> 6.1. Recreational activities
♦ timing:Ongoing ♦ scope:Majority (50-90%) ♦ severity:Slow, Significant Declines ⇒ Impact score:Medium Impact: 6 
→ Stresses
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.2. Species disturbance

7. Natural system modifications -> 7.1. Fire & fire suppression -> 7.1.2. Supression in fire frequency/intensity
♦ timing:Ongoing ♦ scope:Minority (<50%) ♦ severity:Unknown ⇒ Impact score:Unknown 
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

7. Natural system modifications -> 7.2. Dams & water management/use -> 7.2.11. Dams (size unknown)
♦ timing:Ongoing ♦ scope:Majority (50-90%) ♦ severity:Slow, Significant Declines ⇒ Impact score:Medium Impact: 6 
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.1. Ecosystem conversion
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

8. Invasive and other problematic species, genes & diseases -> 8.1. Invasive non-native/alien species/diseases -> 8.1.1. Unspecified species
♦ timing:Ongoing ♦ scope:Minority (<50%)   
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

1. Research -> 1.5. Threats

Bibliography [top]

Baard, E.H.W. 1989. The status of some rare and endangered endemic reptiles and amphibians of the southwestern Cape Province, South Africa. Biological Conservation 49: 161-168.

Boycott, R.C. and de Villiers, A.L. 1986. The status of Heleophryne rosei Hewitt (Anura: Leptodactylidae) on Table Mountain and recommendations for its conservation. South African Journal of Wildlife Research: 129-134.

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

De Villiers, A.L. 1997. Monitoring the distribution and conservation status of threatened amphibians in the southwestern Cape. Proceedings of the Third H.A.A. Symposium on African Herpetology, 1993, Pretoria, pp. 142-148. Herpetological Association of Africa, Stellenbosch, South Africa.

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

IUCN. 2017. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2017-2. Available at: (Accessed: 14 September 2017).

McLachlan, A. 1978. South African Red Data Book - Reptiles and Amphibians. South African National Scientific Programmes Report.

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.

Citation: IUCN SSC Amphibian Specialist Group, South African Frog Re-assessment Group (SA-FRoG). 2017. Heleophryne rosei. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2017: e.T9773A77164671. . Downloaded on 20 October 2017.
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