Species: Western leopard toad (Amietophrynus pantherinus)
Status: Endangered (EN)
Interesting Fact: The western leopard toad’s distinctive markings are unique to each individual.
Found only in a small part of the Western Cape Province of South Africa, the western leopard toad is a beautifully patterned amphibian with striking reddish-brown blotches on its back. A large, reddish-coloured gland on each side of its head produces toxins that help deter predators. This species lives on the ground and spends most of its time away from water, but between August and October large numbers converge on suitable pools to breed. Males call from vegetation to attract females, giving a distinctive, deep, snore-like call. Each female western leopard toad produces up to an incredible 25,000 eggs, but only a few young toads survive to reach maturity. This species is never found more than ten kilometres inland.
Although the western leopard toad can survive in urban gardens and parks, it is under threat from increasing urbanisation, development and agriculture. Many toads are killed on roads, particularly when migrating to breeding sites, and this species can also die by becoming trapped in artificial, vertical-sided water bodies such as swimming pools. Predatory fish, invasive plants and captive ducks also present threats at its breeding pools. Fortunately, a number of conservation measures are underway to protect this colourful amphibian. The western leopard toad is legally protected in South Africa, and a Western Leopard Toad Conservation Committee has been helping to draft a management plan for the species. Volunteers help to rescue toads from roads, and the public have been encouraged to send in photographs of the toads and their unique markings to help monitor their populations. By helping to raise awareness of urban conservation issues, efforts to save the western leopard toad may also benefit a range of other species.
Find out more about the western leopard toad and its conservation at the Western Leopard Toad website.
You can also find out more about amphibian conservation on ARKive’s Amphibian Conservation page.
Liz Shaw, ARKive Text Author