This species was described in 2001 and is known only from one site on the summit of Mount Oku (at 3,000 m asl), in the Bamenda Highlands in western Cameroon (Boistel and Amiet 2001). Due to the absence of suitable vegetation at other localities in Cameroon, this species is probably endemic to this area and specifically the summit of Mount Oku. Its extent of occurrence (EOO) and area of occupancy (AOO) are both estimated at 2 km²
Habitat and Ecology
The species lives in Afro-Alpine vegetation and grassland at the summit of Mount Oku. Its breeding habits are unknown. Despite the presence of springs and wetlands on the summit of Mount Oku (T. Doherty-Bone pers. comm. July 2012), it is thought to be either a live-bearer or a direct-developer laying eggs on the ground.
The population status of this species is unknown. Despite fieldwork in 2008, 2009 and 2010, only two individuals have been observed since its original description in 2001—one by David Blackburn in 2006 and one by Thomas Doherty-Bone in 2012 (T. Doherty-Bone pers. comm. July 2012)—suggesting that this may be a rare species.
The habitat at the summit of Mount Oku is threatened by extensive cattle grazing and fire used for pasture maintenance (T. Doherty-Bone pers. comm. July 2012). Because it is a high-altitude species with a very limited range, it could be potentially affected by climate change; however, this requires further research.
The species occurs in the proposed Mount Oku Faunal Reserve. A conservation project was conducted on Mount Oku for several years by BirdLife International, which involved community management of the area involving the local villages. However, the project ended in the mid-2000s and was unsuccessful in mitigating grazing on the summit grasslands, being more focused on forest protection per se (T. Doherty-Bone pers. comm. July 2012; Maisels et al. 2000). Thus, it is recommended that the protection of the species' habitat be increased and that the management of the Reserve be improved (N. Gonwouo pers. comm. June 2012) alongside the preliminary work currently taking place in the Oku community, i.e. the identification of critical habitat, workshops with livestock herders to discern appropriate action, and proposed exclosures for protecting subalpine habitat from grazing (T. Doherty-Bone pers. comm. July 2012). A captive-breeding programme should be considered in view of the immediate habitat destruction caused by livestock grazing and the possible detrimental effects of climate change on the population. Survey work is necessary to determine the current population status and breeding habits of this species. Further research is also needed to understand its ecology, population trends and habitat trends—especially in light of the potential threat posed by climate change.
IUCN SSC Amphibian Specialist Group 2015. Wolterstorffina chirioi. In: IUCN 2014