2 February, 2018
Saving the Ghost Frog
plantations are threatening one of the oldest creatures on
the planet. But the MTO Group is taking action to ensure
nobody loses, not the loggers nor this ancient species.
The discovery of a fifth limited population of the Hewitts Ghost
Frog in South Africa has seen their IUCN status drop from
Critically Endangered to Endangered. But they are far from out
of the woods.
Amphibians face the threat of extinction
more than most other species of animal or plant, which is even
more jarring when one learns how long they have been here. The
ghost frog is a perfect example, first emerging 160 million
years ago - 10 million years before even birds took flight.
Forest plantations are established in green
belts that favour tree crops, making forestry companies the
custodians to South Africa's natural heritage. This
responsibility is front of mind for MTO Forestry, in
particular when it comes to the very rare Hewitts Ghost Frog.
In 1988, distinct colonies of these rare
animals were found across South Africa. They are under real
danger of disappearing due to the conditions caused by
logging. Until 2009, ghost frog colonies were found in just
four perennial rivers - the Geelhoutboom, Martins, Klein and
Diepkloof - that weave through the Elandsberg Mountain Range
in the Eastern Cape of South Africa. The more recent discovery
of a fifth colony in the Cockscomb Mountains, also in the
Eastern Cape, has significantly improved the ghost frog's odds
But it is still at serious risk of
disappearing, leaving no room for complacency. MTO Forestry
has been introducing and improving practices on its
plantations to help preserve the Hewitts Ghost Frog's habitat.
The discovery of a new colony simply reaffirms the need to
look after these rare animals.
MTO Group CEO Lawrence Polkinghorne has
made the company's environmental goals clear when he said:
"MTO remains committed to finding ways to minimise our impact
on the environment. We continue to monitor our actions and
will as far as possible adapt our practices where able to
improve habitats of keystone species."
In 1999 MTO commissioned and funded several
studies to establish the health and situation of these ghost
frog colonies. Since then it has evolved a set of practices
that minimize the impact on the frogs and boost their numbers.
These actions include:
reducing activities around river (riparian) zones during the
ghost frog's breeding season;
any new roads to be built near river systems;
road surfaces prior to harvesting activities to ensure a
minimum amount of silt runoff, which has proven to stagnate
buffer zones around rivers and using only frog-safe
chemicals to remove invader plants. Blanket spraying is no
longer allowed near rivers
coordination and planning of both harvesting and de-weeding
to maintain stable environments and avoid erosion situations
that gunk up rivers;
employees and contractors about the frogs and the efforts to
secure their environments; and
study and monitoring of the frog colonies.
Discoveries of new colonies have turned the
odds more in favour of the Hewitt Ghost Frog. But for MTO
Forestry, this is just the start of the journey to safeguard a
species unique to South Africa.
Source: MTO Group