Ethiopian Short-headed Frog, Balebreviceps hillmani
The Ethiopian Short-headed Frog, Balebreviceps hillmani, is listed as ‘Endangered’ on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™. This poorly-known amphibian is endemic to the Bale Mountains of Ethiopia, where it has been recorded from just a single site, at an elevation of around 3,200 metres. This species comes from a family of frogs that live underground, but its habitat in the Bale Mountains is so humid that researchers don’t think that the Ethiopian Short-headed Frog needs to burrow. Ethiopian Short-headed Frogs possess a remarkable defense mechanism, in which they puff up their bodies and secrete a sticky white, and presumably irritating or toxic liquid from their skin. Their bright yellow markings may indicate to predators that they are toxic.
The narrow belt of giant heather woodland inhabited by the Ethiopian Short-headed Frog is under threat by an increasing human population and their livestock. It is not known how damaging this disturbance is to the Ethiopian Short-headed Frog, but future impacts might be disastrous for the species given its very limited known distribution. There is also the possibility that logging of forests at lower elevations may be having indirect negative impacts on its habitat.
The Ethiopian Short-headed Frog receives some protection within the Bale Mountains National Park. High priorities for the conservation of this small amphibian include the effective protection of its habitat, and further surveys to better understand its ecology, status, and the extent of its distribution.