This species is restricted to the Bale Mountains of Ethiopia, at 2,400-3,200 m asl. It has so far been found only in three very circumscribed localities: Katcha, Fute and the type locality Tulla Negesso (S. Loader and D. Gower pers. comms. June 2012). Its range, taken as a proxy for extent of occurrence (EOO), is estimated to be 0.96 km2 inclusive of the historical localities Katcha and Tulla Negesso. Its area of occupancy (AOO) is estimated to be smaller than this based on the possible extirpation at two of the three sites (S. Loader and D. Gower pers. comms. June 2012). It is considered to occur in one threat-defined location based on livestock trampling and deforestation along the streams through which the species is found (D. Gower and S. Loader pers. comms. June 2012).
Habitat and Ecology
It is known only from giant heath (Erica sp.) woodland and adjoining Schefflera-Hagenia forest, where it is found on the grassy banks of small, fast-flowing streams. The breeding behaviour is unknown, but female specimens contain large and unpigmented ova. The presence of such eggs is generally considered to be indicative of either direct development or at least a terrestrial nest (Largen 1991). If true in this case, the eggs are most likely to be deposited amongst herbaceous vegetation on the banks of small, swift-flowing streams, which is the habitat where fully mature females have been found (Largen 1991). It has disappeared from the type locality, in which the stream habitat has experienced substantial modification (Gower et al. 2013).
It was numerous at the type locality in 1986 (Largen 1991) but has not been found here since, despite repeated dedicated surveys (Gower et al. 2013). A second locality (Katcha) yielded a single specimen in 1986, with no subsequent records despite multiple surveys (Gower et al. 2013). Since 1986 only three individuals have been sighted at a single locality (Fute; Gower et al. 2013).
The main observed threat is human-induced habitat deterioration through cattle grazing (particularly trampling of streams), deforestation for firewood and settlement development (Gower et al. 2013). Chytrid fungus occurs in high prevalence in amphibians in highland Ethiopia and has been detected on this species, although its impact is not known (Gower et al. 2012).
This species' entire range lies within the Bale Mountains National Park (Gower et al. 2013), although this protected area is not formally gazetted. There is a long-running conservation programme in the Bale Mountains National Park (Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Authority and Frankfurt Zoological Society; Frankfurt Zoological Society 2007), but there is a lack of amphibian-specific activities and there is increasing encroachment within the Park, so improved park management is needed (Frankfurt Zoological Society 2007, Gower et al. 2013). Additional actions needed include the protection of remaining montane forest habitats from subsistence exploitation. More information is needed on this species' distribution, population status, natural history and the potential impact of chytrid fungus. In addition, population monitoring is needed in view of recent declines.
Red List Status
Critically Endangered (CR)
Listed as Critically Endangered because its extent of occurrence (EOO) is estimated to be under 1 km2, its area of occupancy (AOO) is likely even more restricted, it is considered to occur in one threat-defined location, and there is a continuing decline in its EOO, AOO, and the extent of its montane forest habitat in the Bale Mountains.
IUCN SSC Amphibian Specialist Group, 2013. Ericabatrachus baleensis. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2013: e.T58075A16953634. http://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2013-1.RLTS.T58075A16953634.en .Downloaded on 18 January 2019