Nectophrynoides asperginis 


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Amphibia Anura Bufonidae

Scientific Name: Nectophrynoides asperginis
Species Authority: Poynton, Howell, Clarke & Lovett, 1999
Common Name(s):
English Kihansi Spray Toad
Taxonomic Source(s): Frost, D.R. 2014. Amphibian Species of the World: an Online Reference. Version 6 (27 January 2014). New York, USA. Available at: (Accessed: 27 January 2014).

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Extinct in the Wild ver 3.1
Year Published: 2015
Date Assessed: 2014-07-25
Assessor(s): IUCN SSC Amphibian Specialist Group
Reviewer(s): Stuart, S.N.
Contributor(s): Channing, A., Poynton, J., Howell, K., Menegon, M., Loader, S. & Ngalason, W.
Facilitator/Compiler(s): Morris, E.J. & Luedtke, J.
This species was listed as Extinct in the Wild (EW) in 2009 because no self-sustaining population existed in the wild at that time. The 2014 assessment is observing the five year rule set out in section 2.2.1 of the Guidelines for Using the IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria, which requires a species to remain in its original category for a time period of five years from the time it no longer meets the criteria for that category (IUCN Standards and Petitions Subcommittee 2014). As reintroductions began in 2013, the species will require reassessment in 2018. This five-year time period will allow for monitoring of the species' recovery and the viability of its re-introduced population.
Previously published Red List assessments:
2009 Extinct in the Wild (EW)
2006 Critically Endangered (CR)
2004 Critically Endangered (CR)

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:This species was a micro-endemic of the Kihansi Falls, in the Kihansi Gorge, in the Udzungwa Mountains, eastern Tanzania, at 600-940 m asl. Its global range covered an area of less than two hectares around the Kihansi Falls, and searches for it around other waterfalls on the escarpment of the Udzungwa Mountains have not located any additional populations (Channing et al. 2006).
Countries occurrence:
Regionally extinct:
Tanzania, United Republic of
Lower elevation limit (metres):600
Upper elevation limit (metres):940
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:Formerly it was abundant in a tiny area, with a population of around 17,000 individuals. Reports indicate that the species fluctuated naturally in its population size. The population appeared to be at a high in May 1999, dropping to lower numbers in the course of 2001 and 2002 [total population estimates oscillated at around 11,000 individuals up until March 2002; see Channing et al. 2006], and at a high again in June 2003 [a total population estimate of 20,989 individuals; Channing et al. 2006]. However, subsequently the population went into steep decline, and by mid-January 2004, only three individuals could be seen and just two males were heard calling. There were a few records of calling animals during the rest of 2004, and an unconfirmed report from May 2005 (CBSG 2007), but there were no records of any individuals in subsequent years, despite surveys, leading to the species being listed as Extinct in the Wild in May 2009.

In an effort to re-introduce the species into the wild, Toledo and Bronx Zoos have been conducting an ex situ breeding programme. In June 2012 1,000 toads were involved in release experiments (where some were retained in a captive facility at Kihansi and a few were sent to the gorge). In October 2012 2,000 toads were re-introduced back to the gorge. In October 2013 2,000 toads were involved in several activities (where some were kept at Kihansi captive breeding facility, some were used for release experiments and some were re-introduced back to the gorge). There is a plan to re-introduce another 2,000 toads to the wild probably in October 2014 (W. Ngalason  pers. comm. July 2014).
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented:Unknown

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:This species lived only in soaked herbaceous vegetation in the spray zone of the Kihansi Falls. An artificial gravity-fed sprinkler system is currently in place to mimic the original conditions of the spray zone. The toad breeds by internal fertilization, with females retaining the larvae internally in the oviduct until little toadlets are born. Clutch size varies from 5–13 offspring (Channing et al. 2006).
Systems:Terrestrial; Freshwater

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade:

In 2000, at the invitation of the Tanzanian government, the Bronx Zoo collected 499 individuals to establish an ex-situ breeding programme in view of creating an assurance population.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): The serious decline and extinction of this species appears tp be related to the Lower Kihansi Hydropower Project, which involved the construction of a dam upstream on the Kihansi River in 2000. The dam cut off 90% of the original water flow to the gorge, thereby hugely reducing the volume of spray, particularly in the dry season, as well as altering the vegetational composition.

An artificial gravity-fed sprinkler system was set up to mimic the natural spray of the Kihansi ecosystem with the remaining water flow. Unfortunately, the sprinkler system was not ready by the time the water was cut off in 2000, and by the time the sprinklers came on nine months later the ecosystem had already dried up (see Krajick 2006). Later, during the dry season in 2003, the artificial sprinkler system failed for a while. Around this time, the fungal disease chytridiomycosis was confirmed in dead animals of this species, and this disease is probably responsible for the final population crash. It is possible that the drought caused by the failure of the sprinkler system resulted in stress to the animals that rendered them susceptible to the disease. There are also reports that the 2003 crash coincided with a brief opening of the dam's floodgates to flush sediments; tests showed that these contained pesticides used in maize farming operations upstream, in concentrations sufficient to kill the toads (Krajick 2006). The impact of predation by safari ants (Dorylus sp.) and crabs (Potomonautes sp.) is unknown (Channing et al. 2006).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: This toad is not known from any protected areas. Sufficient minimum bypass flow from the dam is required to maintain the spray habitat and an artificial sprinkler system is in place to provide these conditions - this is especially important in the dry season. Captive breeding is ongoing in Toledo and New York Bronx Zoos, and a captive population was established at the University of Dar es Salaam in 2010. Soft-release experiments, as well as full re-introduction, are ongoing and the reintroduced population is under regular monitoring. It is listed on CITES Appendix I.

Classifications [top]

5. Wetlands (inland) -> 5.1. Wetlands (inland) - Permanent Rivers/Streams/Creeks (includes waterfalls)
suitability: Suitable season: resident major importance:Yes
1. Land/water protection -> 1.1. Site/area protection
2. Land/water management -> 2.1. Site/area management
2. Land/water management -> 2.3. Habitat & natural process restoration
3. Species management -> 3.2. Species recovery
3. Species management -> 3.3. Species re-introduction -> 3.3.1. Reintroduction

In-Place Research, Monitoring and Planning
  Action Recovery plan:Yes
  Systematic monitoring scheme:Yes
In-Place Land/Water Protection and Management
  Occur in at least one PA:No
In-Place Species Management
  Subject to ex-situ conservation:Yes
In-Place Education
  Included in international legislation:Yes
  Subject to any international management/trade controls:Yes
7. Natural system modifications -> 7.2. Dams & water management/use -> 7.2.11. Dams (size unknown)
♦ timing: Ongoing ♦ scope: Majority (50-90%) ♦ severity: Very Rapid Declines ⇒ Impact score: High Impact: 8 
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.1. Ecosystem conversion
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.1. Species mortality
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.2. Species disturbance

8. Invasive & other problematic species & genes -> 8.2. Problematic native species
♦ timing: Ongoing ♦ scope: Majority (50-90%) ♦ severity: Very Rapid Declines ⇒ Impact score: High Impact: 8 
→ Stresses
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.1. Species mortality

9. Pollution -> 9.3. Agricultural & forestry effluents -> 9.3.3. Herbicides and pesticides
♦ timing: Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.1. Species mortality

♦  Establishing ex-situ production *
 National : ✓  International : ✓ 

Bibliography [top]

CBSG (IUCN/SSC). 2007. Kihansi Spray Toad (Nectophrynoides asperginis) Population and Habitat Viability Assessment: Briefing Book. CBSG, Apple Valley.

Channing, A. and Howell, K.M. 2006. Amphibians of East Africa. Edition Chimaira, Frankfurt am Main.

Channing, A., Finlow-Bates, K.S., Haarklau, S.E. and Hawkes, P.G. 2006. The biology and recent history of the Critically Endangered Kihansi Spray Toad Nectophrynoides asperginis in Tanzania. Journal of East African Natural History 95(2): 117–138.

Channing, A., Menegon, M., Salvidio, S. and Akker, S. 2005. A new forest toad from the Ukaguru Mountains, Tanzania (Bufonidae: Nectophrynoides). African Journal of Herpetology 54: 149-157.

IUCN. 2015. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2015.2. Available at: (Accessed: 23 June 2015).

IUCN Standards and Petitions Subcommittee. 2014. Guidelines for Using the IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria. Version 11. Available at: Downloadable from .

Krajick, K. 2006. The lost world of the Kihansi toad. Science: 1230-1232.

Poynton, J.C. 1998. Tanzanian bufonid diversity: preliminary findings. Herpetological Journal: 3-6.

Poynton, J.C. 2003. Altitudinal species turnover in southern Tanzania shown by anurans: some zoogeographical considerations. Systematics and Biodiversity: 117-126.

Poynton, J.C., Howell, K.M., Clarke, B.T. and Lovett, J.C. 1998. A critically endangered new species of Nectophrynoides (Anura: Bufonidae) from the Kihansi Gorge, Udzungwa Mountains, Tanzania. African Journal of Herpetology: 59-67.

Quinn, C.H., Ndangalasi, H.J., Gerstle, J. and Lovett, J.C. 2005. Effect of the Lower Kihansi Hydropower Project and post-project mitigation measures on wetland vegetation in Kihansi Gorge, Tanzania. Biodiversity and Conservation: 297-308.

Zippel, K. 2005. Zoos play a vital role in amphibian conservation. 26 July 2005.

Citation: IUCN SSC Amphibian Specialist Group. 2015. Nectophrynoides asperginis. In: The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2015: e.T54837A16935685. . Downloaded on 27 November 2015.
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