by STAFF WRITER
THE cave squeaker – listed as critically endangered in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species is only found in Chimanimani mountains.
This frog species is so rare that after having last been seen in 1962 it took more than four decades for it to be sighted again.
According to Afro Mont – an African mountain research network, Dr Rob Hopkins, a frog biologist working at the Natural History Museum in Bulawayo in the herpetology department, led a recent mission to “re-discover the long missing frog, that was found by Dr Don Broadley in 1962 and not recorded since.”
Dr Hopkins and Dr Broadley had attempted re-location on some four occasions without success, indicating how rare and localised this frog species is.
It is highly endangered and has since been listed as such in the red data book.
The cave squeaker is unique as a frog as it undergoes direct development to hatch as miniature adults unlike other frogs whose developmental process involves being tadpoles.
The embryo develops into a tadpole and subsequently into an adult frog before hatching. But the eggs still require being laid in a damp location.
This unique ability frees the cave squeaker from dependence on bodies of water for reproduction.
The cave squeaker’s extent of occurrence is less than 100 km2 and its area of occupancy is less than 10 km2, all individuals are in a single location.
Afro Mont fears that this frog species’ population may continuing declining “due to climate change and other unidentified threats.”
Illegal mining activities on the Bundi river in Chimanimani mountains over the past decade have been noted by researchers like Dr Hopkins as a direct threat to this amphibian species.
The mountain range also have another endemic frog species – bufo vertebralis grindleyi, among 35 amphibian species that are found within it.
These uncelebrated wildlife species make Chimanimani a special place whose total import is however yet to be fully discovered by many beyond as few researchers.