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Table Mountain Ghost Frog

Heleophryne rosei


The Critically Endangered Table Mountain ghost frog is found only on the slopes of Table Mountain, South Africa, occupying an area of only 4 km².

The Table Mountain ghost frog has very few close relatives and is one of only seven species in its entire family, Heleophrynidae. These frogs diverged from all other amphibians around 140 million years ago, in the Early Cretaceous. This was around 70 million years before Tyrannosaurus rex walked the Earth!

This species is adapted to life in fast-flowing mountain streams. Their tadpoles possess sucker-like mouthparts, which they can use to climb up wet, vertical rock surfaces around their streams at night. This frog has been called a “trogloxene” species; an occasional cave visitor that does not complete its full life cycle within them.

The main threats to the Table Mountain ghost frog are the spread of alien vegetation, frequent fires, and the construction of water storage reservoirs on the mountain affecting the consistency of stream flow. Intensive eco-tourism is also a potential threat given that Table Mountain is one of South Africa’s most visited natural locations. The whole of this species’ range is incorporated in the Table Mountain National Park. A monitoring programme by Western Cape Nature Conservation is in place.

  • Order: Anura
  • Family: Heleophrynidae
  • Trend: decreasing
  • Size: 50-60mm

EDGE Score

EDGE Score: 6.47 (?)
ED Score: 39.15 (?)
GE / IUCN Red List (?)
Not Evaluated Data Deficient Least Concern Near Threatened Vulnerable Endangered Critically Endangered Extinct in the Wild Extinct


This species is endemic to the southern, eastern, and marginally western slopes of Table Mountain, in the Western Cape Province of extreme south-western South Africa. It occurs at an altitude of 240-1,060 metres above sea level.

Habitat and Ecology

The species is concentrated in wooded ravines and valleys in clear, swift-flowing perennial streams in areas of high rainfall. The year-round water supply is necessary to facilitate the year-long development of tadpoles. Breeding occurs in spring and summer during the low stream flow.

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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).

Wood plantations Recreation Fire Dams Invasive species

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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