Facts
  • Spain
  • After mating, males carry the strings of fertilised eggs around their hind legs, depositing them in water when they are ready to hatch.
  • The warts on the back of the Betic midwife toad give off a strong smelling poison when the toad is handled or attacked.
  • One of the oldest families in the group “frogs and toads”, the midwife toads diverged from all other amphibian species over 150 million years ago. This is around the same time that Archaeopteryx, the common anncester to all modern birds, appeared in the fossil record.
  • Endemic to southeastern Spain, its distribution is limited to several mountain ranges at an altitude of 700 to 2000 metres above sea level, in pine forests, oak forests and open rocky landscapes..
Threats
  • Experiencing loss of suitable breeding habitat through excessive water withdrawal, droughts and modernisation of agricultural practices.
  • The fungal disease chytridiomycosis, which has already impacted its close relatives in Mallorca, Western European and mainland Spain.
  • The decline of its habitat and the fragmentation of its range, in addition to the threat of chytrid, has led to the Betic midwife toad being classified as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened species.
Conservation Required
  • Monitor species for chytrid fungus.
  • Protect its breeding habitat.
  • Investigate the possibility of a captive breeding programme, like the one that has successfully been organised at Jersey Zoo for its close relative the Mallorcan midwife toad.


Proposed Actions

EDGE would like to restore lost breeding ponds and monitor the presence of the fungal disease chytridiomycosis in populations of this toad.

The Betic midwife toad is endemic to southern Spain, and belongs to one of the oldest frog families, the midwife toads. This family is so-named because the males carry the strings of fertilised eggs around on their hind legs, depositing them in water when they are ready to hatch. The warts on the back of the Betic midwife toad give off a strong smelling poison when the toad is handled or attacked.

Excessive water withdrawal, droughts, and modernisation of agricultural practices, including the replacement of traditional ground pools for cattle with metal water tanks that this species cannot breed in, have all contributed to the loss of the breeding habitat of the Betic midwife toad. Furthermore, the virulent chytrid fungus which has caused declines of a huge number of frog species worldwide has also been found in populations of this species. The Betic midwife toad has been classified as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

EDGE aims to restore the breeding habitat of the Betic midwife toad through the creation of breeding ponds and refuges for this species in its wild habitat. We will also fund a screening programme to survey Betic midwife toad populations for chytrid fungus to attempt to prevent the disease from annihilating this species in the wild. An awareness-raising programme will be carried out alongside these activities to increase their success. A successful breeding programme has been implemented for the closely related Mallorcan midwife toad, and EDGE would like to support an investigation into the possibility of doing the same for the Betic midwife toad, if necessary.

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