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Sagalla Caecilian

Boulengerula niedeni


The Endangered Sagalla caecilian is found on Sagalla Hill, Kenya, with a total range which is equivalent to the area half the size of Manhattan Island.

This worm-like burrowing species is actually an egg-laying amphibian, and these eggs guarded by the female until they hatch. The Sagalla caecilian uses specialised sensory tentacles on either side of its head to feel its way around as it feeds on earth worms and termites. This species detects its prey by detecting chemical signals through an acute sense of smell and taste.

Modern caecilians, with their limbless, superficially worm-like or snake-like bodies, are perhaps the most unusual amphibians in appearance, and their behaviour can be equally strange. The order Gymnophiona (the caecilians) diverged from other amphibian lineages more than 300 million years ago, in the Carboniferous period. This is around the same time humans last shared a common ancestor with turtles, snakes, and even dinosaurs!

The Sagalla caecilian is under threat from the clearance of native vegetation and the subsequent soil erosion of its habitat. There are also Eucalyptus plantations on Sagalla Hill, and this is suggested to create an unfavourable habitat for the Sagalla caecilian. Sagalla forest is now a government managed community forest. The Kenyan forest service are replacing eucalyptus in private farms with indigenous trees in the area to create better more favourable for this species.

  • Order: Gymnophiona
  • Family: Herpelidae
  • Population: Locally common
  • Trend: unknown
  • Size: 300mm

EDGE Score

EDGE Score: 5.64 (?)
ED Score: 34.23 (?)
GE / IUCN Red List (?)
Not Evaluated Data Deficient Least Concern Near Threatened Vulnerable Endangered Critically Endangered Extinct in the Wild Extinct


This species found between 1,000-1504 metres above sea level on Sagala Hill, in the Taita Hills, southeastern Kenya.

Habitat and Ecology

This species lives in soil underneath banana plants or under decomposing organic debris. They are tolerant of small-scale farming activities. Their density is higher near streams than in cultivated land away from streams. This species is presumed to breed by direct development; whereby young emerge from the eggs as miniature versions of the adults and bypass a free living larval stage.

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Conservation Actions

For each key category of conservation action, we calculated a conservation attention score based on expert information. In this graph, a higher score means the action is being carried out more intensively over more of the species range. The colour shows how important each action is considered to be for the conservation of this species.

Engaging stakeholders
Addressing threats
Status of knowledge
Management plan
Capacity building
Behaviour change
Awareness raising
  Score: 100 means the activity occurs at high level across more than 75% of the species range
Very Low

Overall Conservation Attention

We combined all of the expert information on conservation actions to calculate an overall conservation attention score for this species. Please help us to reach our goal of establishing dedicated conservation attention at “High” levels for all EDGE species.

Very Low Low Medium High

More information

Recent studies have grouped all possible conservation activities for any species into nine key categories (Washington et. al 2015). For each action, we asked experts for each species to assess the extent to which that action is being carried out and how much of the species’ range that action occurs in. For each action we used these two pieces of information to calculate the conservation attention score per action. A score of 100 means that the action is being carried out to a high level across at least 75% of the species range. We then combined the scores for all actions into an overall conservation attention score for the species. The experts also judged how important each category was to the conservation of that particular species.

This wordcloud illustrates the threats facing this species. The size of each word indicates the extent of a species range that is affected by that threat (larger size means a greater area is affected). The colour of the word indicates how much that threat impacts the species (darker shades of red mean the threat is more severe).

Urban development Habitat change Droughts Extreme temperatures Extreme weather Crops Wood plantations Livestock Logging Fire Ecosystem changes Invasive species Native species Introduced genetic material Disease Wastewater Agriculture

Threat wordcloud key:

Small area affected
Large area affected
Least severe
Most severe
Severity unknown
Source: The IUCN List of Threatened Species. Version 2017.1.
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Sagalla caecilian conservation in Kenya’s Eastern Arc Mountains

  • Locations: Sagalla Hill (Taita Hills - Eastern Arc Mountains), Kenya
  • Active dates: 2011 - ongoing
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Dorine Mkaluma Ngeti

  • Project name: Restoration of Sagalla Hill with a view to creating a sustainable future for the Critically Endangered caecilian Boulengerula niedeni
  • Project site: Taita Hills, Kenya
  • Active: 2009 - 2010
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Basil Lewela

  • Project name: Habitat restoration of the Sagalla Hill to enhance survival of the Critically Endangered caecilian
  • Project site: Taita Hills, Kenya
  • Active: 2015 - 2017
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