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Biodiversity management plan for the western leopard toad amietophrynus pantherinus

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WESTERN LEOPARD TOAD Amietophrynus pantherinus

Tony Rebelo1, John Measey2, Atherton de Villiers3, & Clifford Dorse4

with contributions from Julie Anderson, Joy Garman and Evanne Rothwell
1 South African National Biodiversity Institute: Threatened Species Research Unit,
2 South African National Biodiversity Institute: Molecular Ecology and Evolution
3 Cape Nature
4 City of Cape Town: Biodiversity Management Branch

Lead Agency: South African National Biodiversity Institute
Implementing Organizations: City of Cape Town: Biodiversity Management Branch
Environment Management Services
Parks and Forests
Roads and Stormwater
Table Mountain National Park



Prepared for National Biodiversity Management Plan for Species as per NEMBA 2004

1.1 Table of Contents
1.1 Table of Contents x

1.2 Abbreviations, Acronyms and Glossary of Terms x

2 Executive summary x

3 Introduction. x

4 Background x

4.1: Conservation status and legislative context x

4.2: Species details x

4.3: Role players and planning methodology x

5 Aim of the plan x

6 Threats and problems identified x

7 Action Plan x

8 Monitoring x

9 Stakeholder consultation list x

10 Proof of Compliance x

11 References x

12 Appendixes x

1.2 Abbreviations, Acronyms and Glossary of Terms
1.2.1. Abbreviations
1.2.2. Acronyms
CapeNature Western Cape Nature Conservation

CoCT City of Cape Town

CoCT: BMB City of Cape Town: Biodiversity Management Branch

CoCT: EMS City of Cape Town: Environmental Management Services

DEADP Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning

DEAT Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism

HR Ikapa Honorary Rangers

LUPO Land Use Planning Ordinance

SANBI South African National Biodiversity Institute

SANParks South African National Parks

TMF Table Mountain Fund

TMNP Table Mountain National Park

1.2.3. Glossary
Adult toads Breeding toads, specifically those that visit Breeding sites. This excludes toadlets and subadults. Generally any toad more than 85 mm long (males; snout to vent) and 95mm long (females).

Amplexus The mating embrace of male upon female employed by toads when mating.

Blackspot A road with a high number of toads crossing and killed annually (5 on any night per running km, or more than 20 per season per running km). These are usually adjacent Breeding sites.

Breeding sites Waterbodies (ponds, pools, rivers, canals, wetlands, dams, vleis) used by toads for mating, and in which eggs and tadpoles develop and toadlets remain until ready to disperse.

Foraging range That habitat used by toads during the non-breeding season. Generally any area within 2km radius of a known Breeding site.

Migration Movement of toads to and from Breeding sites. This involves toads moving to and leaving the Breeding sites during August and toadlets leaving water bodies during summer. All three of these movements are usually “explosive” and last only 1-3 days, but the actual dates, durations and intensity vary unpredictably between years and are determined mainly by climate.

Mortality threshold The number of deaths per kilometer of road per day per Breeding site population that exceeds acceptable limits. Until more research is undertaken this is arbitrarily set at 5% of the breeding population per year. Actual figures per road will depend on duration of migration, size of the Breeding site and foraging range of toads relative to roads. Smaller Breeding sites and phases where populations are declining may require more stringent thresholds.

Sub-adults Toads more than 30 mm and less than 85 mm long (snout to vent). Cf: adult and toadlets.

Tadpoles The juvenile, aquatic phase of toads, between eggs and toadlets Synonym: polywiggles, polywogs.

Toadlets Newly metamorphosed toads in their first migration away from breeding sites. Generally, any toad less than 30mm long (snout to vent). Cf: adult.

Toad-friendly barriers Any barrier (walls, fences, gates, electric fences, curbs, etc.) that allow toads in amplexus passage (arbitrarily set at a 100mm diam. gap at ground level) at least once every running 20m.

Toads Unless specified, any metamorphosed individual of the Western Leopard Toad, excluding eggs and tadpoles, but including toadlets.

2 Executive Summary.
3 Introduction.

  • A succinct aims and objectives of the BMP-S;

  • Timescales to be included;

  • Biodiversity justification;

  • Benefits of the plan;

  • Briefly introduce the species and why it needs a BMP-S;

  • Anticipated outcomes; and,

  • Brief overview of the legal mandate.

4 Background.
4.1: Conservation status and legislative context:

  1. Parties responsible for management and signing of MoU:

SANBI: Threatened Species Programme – monitoring

Responsible person (Monitoring): Domitilla Raimondo;

SANBI: Threatened Species Research Programme – Research and coordination;

Responsible person (Research): John Measey;

CoCT: Biodiversity Management Branch – coordination and monitoring;

Responsible person (Biodiversity Coordinator): Clifford Dorse;

Responsible person (Area Manager - South Area): Dalton Gibbs;

CoCT: City Parks – mowing: Verge maintenance;

Responsible person (Director City Parks): Christa la Roux ,

CoCT: Roads and Stormwater - dredging, curbs, road signage, road safety;

Responsible person (Road policy & maintenance): Duncan Daries,

Responsible person (Stormwater): Mogamat Kenny,

CoCT: Environmental Management Services – policy, planning and building plan approval, compliance; Responsible person (EMS): Joy Garmen/Andy Greenwood;

DEA&DP: Director: Anthony Barnes;

DEA&DP: Deputy Director (Region B2): Paul Hardcastle;

DEA&DP: Deputy Director (Region B1): Zaahir Toefy;

DEA&DP: Integrated Enviro Management: Tammy Christie –;

DEA&DP: Spatial Planning: Melissa Naiker –;

DEA&DP: Deputy Director Biodiversity Management and Climate change:
Dennis Laidler –;

CapeNature: To sign MoU with DEA&DP

TMNP – monitoring and rescue coordination: Leighan Mossop;

Responsible person (Southern section): Justin Buchmann;

Responsible person (Central section): Leighan Mossop;

Responsible person (Tokai and Cecilia): Chris Botes;

Responsible person (Northern section): Xola ??.

  1. Compliance with NEMBA principles;

Compliance with NEMA principles;

Including, inter alia:

  • “(4)(a) Sustainable development requires the consideration of all relevant factors including the following:

(i) That the disturbance of ecosystems and loss of biological diversity are avoided, or, where they cannot be altogether avoided, are minimized and remedied;”

  • “(4)(r) Sensitive, vulnerable, highly dynamic or stressed ecosystems, such as coastal shores, estuaries, wetlands, and similar systems require specific attention in management and planning procedures, especially where they are subject to significant human resource usage and development pressure.”

Compliance with NEMA EIA regulation:

  • Activities requiring environmental authorisation:

GN No: R.386, Item (4) “The dredging, excavation, infilling, removal or moving of soil, sand or rock exceeding 5 cubic metres from a river, tidal lagoon, tidal river, lake, in-stream dam, floodplain or wetland.”

  1. Context in National Biodiversity Framework;

The Leopard Toad is a flagship species for conservation in the Cape Town suburban environment and the urban edge. No other BMAP-S exist or are currently planned from the area.

  1. Context in Bioregional plans;

Bioregional Plans are in the early process of development and it is possible that outcomes from the WLT BMP-species will be incorporated into this.

  1. Context in any other plans issued in terms of NEMBA;

No other plans in the areas concerned have been issued or are planned in terms of NEMBA.

  1. Context in IDP of City of Cape Town;

  • Wetlands are a major focus area, and several nature reserves (Rondevlei, Seekoeivlei, Kenilworth, Raapenberg, Die Oog) and national parks (TMNP: Tokai, Noordhoek, Silvermine) as well as the Constantia Green Belt contain Breeding sites.

  • Several Core Conservation areas (Kenilworth, Tokai, Rondevlei) are integral to conservation of the Western Leopard Toad, and corridors and green belts between these follow wetlands and rivers allowing for connectivity between these sites.

  1. Context in international agreements;

None. This is a local endemic that is not traded, and as far as is known, not regularly kept as a pet.

  1. Context in any other plans;

No other plans impinging on the Western Leopard Toad are known.

  1. Status in terms of NEMBA, IUCN Red Data List, CITES, provincial ordinances;

    • Because the Leopard Toad is not subject to a restricted activity it does not qualify for species protection under NEMBA.

    • It does not qualify for ecosystem protection under NEMBA because most of its foraging habitat is urban areas. Although Cape Flats Sand Fynbos is listed as Critically Endangered under NEMBA, the natural remnants within the Western Leopard Toad’s range are already under conservation.

    • It is listed as globally and regionally Endangered (B1ab(ii,iii,iv,v)+2ab(ii,iii,iv,v)) in the IUCN Red List.

    • As it is not traded it is not relevant to CITES.

    • The species is legally protected under Schedule 2 of the Nature Conservation Ordinance 19 of 1974. What does this say?

    • All new development applications triggering the listed activities (GN. No. R386 & R387 of 21 April 2006) in terms of NEMA (Act 107 of 1998) will be evaluated by the IEM components. LUPO applications on appeal and undelegated LUPO applications. DEA&DP also have a forward planning division which are involved in forward planning documents.

    • Land Use Planning Ordinance, No. 15 of 1985

In terms of section 36, when Council assesses planning applications, regard must be given to the preservation of the natural environment.

In terms of section 42, Council may impose conditions of approval for planning applications.

  1. If not NEMBA listed, why does the species qualify for “special conservation concern”?;

The species is listed as Endangered under the IUCN Red List classification. The nature of the threats (road kills; wetland destruction, and urban development) require national coordination, although implementation is by local and national conservation authorities, with extensive volunteer involvement and property owner support. As such it is an ideal flagship species for the conservation of many other threatened animal species and ecosystems.

  1. Cultural conservation status;

None known.

  1. Motivation for assigning priority for this BMP-S;

This flagship species effectively directly promotes the conservation of at least 5 other frog species, 1 mammal species (details below) and promotes eco-friendly gardening practices. Its reach extends beyond its immediate conservation, being ideal for fostering public awareness and continued involvement in conservation issues, from alien plants, eco-friendly urban management, and eco-friendly gardening. It thus spans the entire range from urban planning, road verge and green belt maintenance to the man in the garden, uniting them in awareness and connecting nature from the reserves into the urban gardens. As a potential Public Relationship exercise and urban conservation awareness campaign this project has no equal.

  1. Any existing BMP-S for this species or related species, or for species that might be adversely impacted or affected by the management of this species.

There are no existing BMP-S for Western Leopard Toads or any other similar species in the region. As far as can be ascertained at present, no indigenous species will be adversely affected by actions involving Western Leopard Toads – in fact, the opposite is true.

4.2: Species Details:


Western Leopard Toad Westelike Luiperdskurwepadda

Amietophrynus pantherinus

Also known as the August Frog (it breeds in August forming large aggregations in pools), Snoring Toad (the loud breeding call of the males) and Panther Toad.

Status: Endangered with extinction due to small area of distribution and small world locality, with fragmentation and loss of distribution, localities, habitat, habitat quality and populations.

Size: up to 140 mm long (snout to vent).

Description: A toad with warts and parotid (ear) glands. Chocolate brown patches on a bright yellow background, symmetrically paired, with a yellow stripe down the backbone. Parotid glands pink-brown to red. Undersurface granular and creamy. Males have a darker throat.

Similar species: Raucous Toad – the dark patch behind the eyes forms a bar across the head, no snout patches. Karoo Toad – asymmetrical patches on a tan background. Sand Toad – paired patches on the snout and behind eyes and no bright yellow background, but yellow upper feet. None of these three is a Red List species.

Call: A deep pulsed rolling snore. Calls restricted to breeding pools.

Range: Cape Flats of Cape Town from Observatory to Philippi and Noordhoek, Fish Hoek, Hout Bay. Also from Stanford to Buffeljarsvlei on the coastal flats.

Breeding: An “explosive” breeder: tens to thousands of frogs congregate on selected breeding sites for 1-2 weeks in July to September, usually August related to the first warm post-winter weather. Males form calling aggregations in deep pools – which attracts the females. Gelatinous strings of 10 000-25 000 eggs are laid.

Life cycle: Hatching occurs in 1-2 weeks. Tadpoles are bottom dwelling and feed on algae. Metamorphosis takes 10-12 weeks. In October to December thousands of 11 mm long toadlets leave the pools and disperse to feeding sites. Maturity is reached after 4-5 years.

Habitat: Breeding – pools and rivers with standing open water over 500mm deep and fringing vegetation. Non-breeding - dry sandy and loamy soils with Fynbos (or Strandveld) – now largely restricted to suburban gardens, resting in drains and compost heaps. Distribution limited to 5 km around breeding sites.

Threats: 1. Habitat loss due to urbanization. 2. Alien fish and infestation of aquatic weeds in breeding sites, and alien plants drying out catchments. 3. Obstacles to movement such as road gutters, boundary walls, large buildings, canals, storm water drains – that stop toads and toadlets moving to and from breeding pools. 4. Road mortality during breeding migrations.

Action for the public: 1. Join Toad rescue groups in August to count and help toads across obstacles (roads and canals). 2. Put up “Beware Frogs Crossing” on roads around breeding pools in August with Toad rescue groups. 3. Ensure garden walls have frog “gates” at ground level (100x100 mm) at least every 10 m (see Appendix 12.7 Building Plan requirements). 4. Place frog perches on swimming pools during the toadlet dispersal period. 5. Do not use pesticides (snail bait, insect poisons) in your garden if you can help it.

Action for authorities 1. Keep urban green belts - do not allow them to be mowed during the breeding periods and toadlet emigration periods (see Appendix 12.5 Mowing MoU). 2. Protect breeding pools from development, hard edging, pollution and alien invader plants. 3. Install toad safe storm water drains. 4. Aiding land owners with breeding sites with clearance of aliens and keeping areas alien free. 5. Safeguarding catchments for water in breeding sites.

  1. Taxonomy, including subspecific and genetic information:

Originally described as Bufo pantherinus A. Smith in 1828, the genus Bufo was subdivided in 2006 (Frost et al, 2006) and the species assigned to the genus Amietophrynus (named for French herpetologist Amiet and the Greek for toad). For most of the 20th century it was regarded as an allopatric population of B. pardalis (Hewit, 1935), separated from the latter by a distance of about 300 km. Poynton and Lambiris (1998) resurrected the status of B. pantherinus as a full species on the basis of colouration, markings and morphological differences between the two populations, using the earliest published name.

Eick et al. (2001) found greater genetic divergence between A. pantherinus from the Western Cape and A. pardalis from the Eastern Cape than within either area, and agreed that B. pantherinus is specifically distinct from A. pardalis. However, Cunningham and Cherry (2000) found only 0.5% divergence between the species and asserted that the species represented distinct lineages.

While the advertisement call of A. pardalis (in the Eastern Cape) has been described (Passmore, 1977b), an adequate comparison of the calls of A. pardalis and A. pantherinus has not been published (Poynton and Lambiris, 1998). Thus the taxonomic status of the two populations needs to be fully resolved.

A. pantherinus females attain a snout-vent length of about 140 mm, the males being 15% smaller. The beautiful dorsal pattern of chocolate-brown patches with a bright yellow or black margin on a grey background, usually with a yellow vertebral stripe, distinguishes this species from the partially sympatric Raucous Toad A. rangeri that has generally dull brown dorsal markings, and Gutteral Toad A. angusticeps that, in this area, has a greyish dorsal surface covered in dark brown blotches, and yellow colouring on the upper surfaces of its feet. The ventrum of A. pantherinus is granular and cream coloured, with a darkish throat in males.

The advertisement call, a deep, pulsed snore, easily distinguishes A. pantherinus from all other sympatric toad species.

Common Names
: Western Leopard Toad, August Frog, Cape Bullfrog, Leopard Toad, Panther Toad; Afrikaans: Westelike Luiperdskurwepadda;
Differences between adults of the
Western Leopard Toad and other Toads

Amietophrynus pardalis: It is very difficult to distinguish between these two species other than by their distribution. The Eastern Leopard Toad often has the dark bar between the eyes crossing the yellow vertebral line.

Amietophrynus gutturalis: The Guttural Toad has a red infusion on its legs, and pairs of dark markings on the snout creating a counterpoint pale cross. The deep, pulsed snore accelerates. It has been introduced into the Constantia area and is spreading.

Amietophrynus rangeri: The Raucous Toad has the dark markings between the eyes fused into a cross. It is an olive-grey toad with dark patches symmetrical across the back. The call is duck like, kwaa-kwaa, repeated continuously. It has been moved westwards by the nursery industry, but co-occurs with the Western Leopard Toad at Agulhas.
Differences between tadpoles of
Western Leopard Toad and commoner sympatric species

Tadpole identification requires a microscopic examination of the mouthparts.
: WLT tadpoles are very dark (dark brown to black), other conspecific tadpoles tend to be brown or transparent. Shape: WLT tadpoles have a round body (when viewed from above), while others have tear-drop shape or triangular, Tail Length: WLT tadpoles have a very short tail, approximately 1.5 times the length of their bodies.

Toad tadpoles are generally small (less than 25mm long), bottom dwelling, with a broad gap in both the upper and lower oral papillae, a nostril diameter less than half the eye length, tail muscles paler below, and the fin ending in a rounded tip. The eggs are laid in strings.

Western Leopard Toad tadpoles are difficult to identify from other toad speceis. It differs from the Guttural Road which has dark pigmentation over most of the dorsal three quarters of the tail. It differs from the Raucous Toad which has the front of the tail paler on the underside. These differences are subtle.

  1. Distribution, migratory patterns, habitat requirements, biology and ecology;


A. pantherinus is endemic to the winter-rainfall region of the Western Cape. It has a restricted distribution range that spans a distance of about 140 km, from the Cape Peninsula (3318CD, 3418AB) in the west, eastward to beyond Gansbaai in the Buffeljagsbaai area (3419DA). The species has a distinctly coastal distribution and is generally associated with low-lying areas within about 10 km of the sea. Its distribution correlates with large wetland areas, including rivers, and an annual rainfall of ≥600 mm.

Map 1:
The distribution of the Western Leopard Toad in the Western Cape Province during 2003 based on the Frog Atlas records. Solid squares are recent Atlas records also containing museum specimens. Dots are museum specimens where toads were not recorded by atlassers. The shaded square is a new atlas record. Source: De Villiers 2003.
Map 2: The distribution of the Western Leopard Toad as currently understood. Update

The earliest distribution records of A. pantherinus were obtained from the Cape Peninsula and adjoining southwestern part of the Cape Flats (3318CD, 3418AB, BA). This area has also produced the most distribution records, including the following localities: Observatory, Valkenberg, Hout Bay, Noordhoek, Sun Valley, Fish Hoek, Clovelly, Kalk Bay, Kommetjie, Glencairn, Klaasjaagersberg (Cape of Good Hope section TMNP), Scarborough, Constantia, Bergvliet, Tokai, Diep River, Kirstenhof, Lakeside, Rondevlei, Zeekoevlei, Southfield, Ottery, Philippi, Strandfontein and some neighbouring areas.

Although Poynton (1964) recorded A. pantherinus occurring on the Cape Flats in grid cell 3318DC, no further records are known from this area. The mapping of this grid cell represents Poynton’s interpretation of South African Museum specimens from the “Cape Flats”. The species is more likely to have been recorded from the Cape Flats area immediately to the south, situated in grid cell 3418BA where there are known former and current localities. Anecdotal evidence from Faure in 2000 has not been verified.

In the coastal region to the southeast, A. pantherinus has been recorded from Pringle Bay and Betty’s Bay (3418BD, last recorded in 1999), Kleinmond (3419AC, last recorded in 1978), Hermanus and Stanford (3419AD, last recorded in 1971 and currently known, respectively), Gansbaai, Baardskeerdersbos and Uilenkraalsmond (3419CB, all atlas records), Pearly Beach area (3419DA, atlas records), and the Ratel River/Rietfontein in the Agulhas National Park (confirmed NatConCorp 2009).

Anecdotal records (including some photographs) have been recorded from, Breede River Mouth, Swellendam, and Vermaaklikheid(De Villiers, pers records), but these have never been verified and are suspected of being other toad species or possibly Western Leopard Toads accidentally transported by vehicles.

In summary, the Western Leopard Toad has been recorded from eight quarter-degree grid cells. Since 1995, it has been found in six of these cells of which 3419CB represents a new record.

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