Facts
  • Found in Kenya
  • Despite its close resemblance to an earth worm, the Sagalla caecilian is actually a limbless amphibian.
  • Spends most of its life below ground and is adapted for a burrowing lifestyle – its eyes are covered by a protective skin, it has a strong, bony head for pushing through the soil, and possesses sensory tentacles either side of its head to detect the chemical signals from its prey.
  • Lays eggs, which the females guard until they hatch. This species may (like its close relative the Taita African caecilian, Boulengerula taitanus) feed its newly hatched young on its own skin.
  • Only found on Sagalla Hill in the Taita Hills of south-east Kenya, in an area less than half the size of Manhattan Island.
Threats
  • The Sagalla caecilian is a restricted range species, occupying a single location of less than 30 km2. The continued decline in the quality of it habitat has led to this species being classified as Critically Endangered in the IUCN Red List.
  • The removal of streamside vegetation in the Sagalla caecilian’s habitat has resulted in flooding and much soil erosion is areas where this species is known to breed.
  • Increased use of pesticides in its range may present a serious threat to this species.
  • The Sagalla caecilian does not seem to occur in areas of its range where eucalyptus plantations have been established.
Conservation Required
  • Controlling soil erosion within the range of this species by planting native vegetation around streams and on steep slopes.
  • Funding an EDGE Fellow to collect more data on the population ecology, behaviour and threats to this species because so little is currently known – this information can then be used to create a Conservation Action Plan.
  • An investigation into the possibility of establishing a captive research and breeding programme.
  • Replace eucalyptus plantations with native trees.


Proposed Actions

EDGE aims to support further research into this relatively unknown species, and to help habitat restoration on the Sagalla Hill via the planting of native vegetation.

The Sagalla caecilian is found in just one location – the Sagalla Hill in the Taita Hills of south-east Kenya – in an area less than half the size of Manhattan Island. This species spends most of its life below ground, and is adapted for this burrowing lifestyle by having eyes protected by skin, a strong bony head for pushing through the soil, and sensory tentacles on either side of their head to detect the chemical signals of its prey. Having laid her eggs, the female Sagalla caecilian will guard these until they hatch, and may even feed the newly hatched young on her own skin like its close relative, the Taita African caecilian.

There are a number of threats causing degradation of the Sagalla caecilian’s habitat including streamside erosion as a result of vegetation removal and pollution from increased pesticide use. Furthermore, the species does not appear to occur in any areas where eucalyptus plantations have been established. As a result of these threats, and the restricted range of this caecilian, the species has been classified as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

EDGE would like to fund further research into the population ecology, behaviour and threats of the Sagalla caecilian through a local EDGE Fellow, information which is vital to the creation of a successful Conservation Action Plan. Habitat restoration is necessary on the Sagalla Hill, and EDGE hopes to help replace the current eucalyptus plantations with natural vegetation, and to reduce current levels of soil erosion by planting vegetation along streams and on steep slopes.

More Focal Amphibian species



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Associated Blog Posts
7th Jun 13
As explained in this blog post from 2011 chytrid fungus (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis) is one of the primary reasons that amphibians face the greatest risk...  Read

20th Jun 12
In Kenya, the Sagalla Caecilian Conservation Project is carrying out habitat rehabilitation through planting of indigenous trees and vetiva grass in Saga...  Read

29th Feb 12
To coincide with Leap Day, Amphibian Ark has launched a new international event that is celebrating the successes achieved in amphibian conservation, both in...  Read

16th Dec 11
The alternative livelihoods project to secure a future for he Sagalla caecilian never stops... Tree planting The weather has favoured tree planting t...  Read

4th May 11
James Mwang'ombe is the project manager for the Sagalla Caecilian (Boulengerula niedeni) conservation project in Kenya. One of the projects activities is the...  Read

5th Nov 10
An update from James Mwang’ombe, the supervisor of EDGE Fellow Dorine Shali, both of whom are contributing to the conservation of the Sagalla caecilian in ...  Read

27th Dec 09
I, James Mwang’ombe, am Dorine’s local supervisor and the Head of the Taita Taveta Wildlife Forum. The Sagalla Caecilian conservation project is one o...  Read

20th Nov 09
The following blog update was sent by James Mwang'ombe of the Taita Taveta Wildlife Forum in Kenya, where EDGE Fellow Dorine is working to conserve the elusi...  Read

27th Jul 09
EDGE Fellow Dorine Shali has been familiarising herself with her study species, and the problems it faces on Sagalla Hill, Kenya. A field visit was conduc...  Read

4th Jun 09
The EDGE Amphibians project has recently secured funding to start a conservation project for one of our highest priority species - the Sagalla caecilian (Bou...  Read