This species is endemic to the Eastern Cape Province, South Africa. It appears to be restricted to four perennial rivers (Geelhoutboom, Martin's, Klein and Diepkloof) with their headwaters in the Elandsberg Mountains. An additional site is in the Cockscomb Mountains (Cunningham et al. 2003). Its altitudinal range is 400–930 m Asl. Two historical sites, Diep and Enkeldoom River, have not been surveyed during the last ten years, so recent observations of this species from that area are lacking; however, it is likely that the species still occurs there (Reeves et al. 2014). Its EOO is 338 km2 and its AOO is 141 km2. All known sites are thought to represent two threat-defined locations.
Habitat and Ecology
It is a species of fynbos heathland and grassy fynbos. Only very small remnants of fynbos survive within its range, so very little non-breeding habitat survives. Adults remain concealed in hole or rock cracks during the day, emerging at night to feed or mate during the breeding season, which runs from October to January. It breeds in permanent, fast-flowing perennial rivers and streams with rocky beds in the upper reaches of the Elandsberg and Cockscomb. Females lay up to 150 eggs. Adults and tadpoles are found beneath submerged and partly submerged rocks in these streams, and occasionally at the edge of small waterfalls and cascades. The tadpoles take up to two years to develop.
No quantitative population information is currently available for this species, tadpoles are seen regularly and adults rarely, fitting their cryptic life history. The population is not considered to be severely fragmented as one site (Elandsberg) holds >50% of individuals and the 30 km distance between subpopulations is not considered to be too great for dispersal within one generation.
The main threats are loss of suitable non-breeding and breeding habitat as a result of afforestation with exotic pine plantations, suppression of fires, erosion, siltation of streams, dams, and road building. Introduced predatory fish are probably also a threat.
The Cockscomb subpopulation occurs within the boundaries of the Baviaanskloof Nature Reserve. The Longmore Forestry has been actively monitoring the tadpoles numbers in Martins and Geelhoutboom Rivers in the Elandsberge for the last 15 years (W. Conradie pers. comm. August 2016).
Agreements need to be drawn up with private land owners for the management and long term protection of sites. There is also a need for invasive species control.
Studies on its taxonomy, population size, distribution and trends, life history and ecology, and threats are needed. Continued monitoring of known populations and survey work for other populations are also needed.
Red List Status
Listed as Endangered because its extent of occurrence (EOO) is 338 km2, its area of occupancy (AOO) is 141 km2, all individuals occur in two locations, and there is continuing decline in the quality and extent of its habitat.
The taxonomy of this genus is in need of revision.
IUCN SSC Amphibian Specialist Group, South African Frog Re-assessment Group (SA-FRoG) 2017. Heleophryne hewitti. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2017: e.T9772A77163963. http://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2017-2.RLTS.T9772A77163963.en .Downloaded on 21 February 2019