This species is known only from high altitude portions of the Itombwe Plateau, Itombwe Massif, South Kivu Province, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), between 1,800–2,200 m Asl (Evans et al. 2008, B. Evans and E. Greenbaum pers. comm. March 2010). Recent records from Milembwe and Tumungu have extended its distribution further south in South Kivu Province (E. Greenbaum and B. Evans pers. comm. January 2017). It does not occur in other parts of the Albertine Rift other than the Itombwe plateau (B. Evans pers. comm. July 2010). Museum records suggest that specimens with the characteristic morphotype attributable of this species occur widely in the highlands bordering the Albertine Rift in DRC (north of the current mapped distribution), although this needs to be verified (R. Tinsley pers. comm. November 2016). Its EOO is 615 km2.
Habitat and Ecology
This species was observed in standing water associated with mineral extraction, in a region that was surrounded by mature forest and mixed use agricultural areas (Evans et al. 2008). It is not thought to be tolerant to extensive habitat disturbance (B. Evans pers. comm. January 2017). It is presumed to breed in standing water by larval development.
This species is locally abundant (Evans et al. 2008). It was last surveyed and seen in 2008 (E. Greenbaum pers. comm. March 2010). Due to ongoing decline in the extent and quality of habitat, the population is suspected to be decreasing.
Human activities such as mining, hunting, agriculture, logging and overgrazing by livestock have a major impact on the local biodiversity of the Itombwe Massif (Omari et al. 1999 in Evans et al. 2008). Mining is widespread and has a major impact; agriculture (corn, beans, etc.) is also very common and contributes to extensive habitat fragmentation, and goats are common on the plateau (B. Evans pers. comm. March 2010). A recent (2009) survey on the plateau revealed that the impacts of deforestation and mining activities are devastating (E. Greenbaum pers. comm. July 2010), and an increase in water turbidity due to mineral extraction was observed in a separate field trip (B. Evans pers. comm. July 2010). In addition, there are indications (i.e. snares) that there is bush meat hunting in the area (B. Evans pers. comm. March 2010), but there are currently no records of this species being eaten (B. Evans pers. comm. January 2017).
The Itombwe Plateau now has a protected status at the federal level, however it is not a national park.
The protected status of Itombwe Plateau needs practical implementation (B. Evans pers. comm. March 2010).
More research is needed on this species' population status and natural history.
Red List Status
Listed as Endangered because its extent of occurrence (EOO) is 615 km2, it occurs in one threat-defined location, and there is continuing decline in the extent and quality of its habitat in the Itombwe Massif.
This species is considered to be the sister taxon of Xenopus wittei (Evans et al. 2008).
IUCN SSC Amphibian Specialist Group 2017. Xenopus itombwensis. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2017: e.T175544A96515753. http://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2017-2.RLTS.T175544A96515753.en .Downloaded on 20 January 2019