On 10 November 2020, the Joburg Zoo transported 450 captive-bred frogs and tadpoles from their Pickersgill’s Reed Frog breeding program for release at two sites in Durban, South Africa. This forms part of the work that has been laid out in the Biodiversity Management Plan for Hyperolius pickersgilli, which Jeanne Tarrant of the Endangered Wildlife Trust’s Threatened Amphibian Programme co-authored with Dr. Adrian Armstrong from Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, the provincial conservation agency. The plan was published in 2017 after extensive consultation with all stakeholders to guide actions to address the key threats facing this species.

The release on 10 November marks the fourth release since the captive breeding component of the project began in earnest in 2015, with over 1000 frogs having been released in total. So far these have mostly been to known sites where the species occurs, so what makes this year’s release exciting was that it was to two recently rehabilitated sites where the species does not currently occur, although that are within its natural historic range. During post-release monitoring so far conducting in November, we have confirmed the species to be active at both sites.

We also assisted the zoo in the collection of 30 breeding adults (comprising the same numbers of each gender) from a site at Adam’s Mission to be taken back into the breeding program. Adam’s Mission is an extensive coastal wetland and swamp forest system we are working with the local community to formally secure as a protected area. On average, each breeding pair produces 40 offspring that can be released back into the wild, so we end up replacing more than are collected. Already the collected adults from Adam’s Mission are breeding back at the zoo in Johannesburg and the next release is planned for March 2021.

This work is also done in collaboration with Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife and the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI).

By Jeanne Tarrant, Endangered Wildlife Trust (South Africa)

Photo: Charlene Russel (Ground Truth)