At the edge of extinction: a first herpetological assessment of the proposed Serra do Pingano Rainforest National Park in Uíge Province, northern Angola.
Zoosystematics and Evolution 96(1): 237-262.
We systematically assess the herpetofaunal diversity of the Serra do Pingano Forest Ecosystem (SPFE) and additional localities throughout the northern Angolan province of Uíge during four independent Rapid Assessment (RA) field campaigns held between 2013 and 2019. These assessments represent the first systematic surveys of amphibians and reptiles from the province, and thus we provide the first province-wide species list. We collected data on the status and current threats to amphibians and reptiles in the proposed Serra do Pingano Rainforest National Park and were able to document 33 species of reptiles from Uíge province. Of the 33 species recorded from the province, 10 species are exclusively found in the SPFE. Amphibian surveys yielded 47 amphibian species from the province. These include 14 new country records and additional records that may represent undescribed species. This raises the amphibian count for Angola to at least 133 species, which includes 18 species exclusively found within the SPFE. Species-richness estimators indicate that more species should be detected if survey efforts are intensified. The species composition in the SPFE is unique and consists of a high proportion of forest specialists with restricted ranges and species found nowhere else in the country. This emphasizes today’s paramount importance of the SPFE, which is threatened by increasing agricultural encroachment and uncontrolled timber extraction and charcoal production. These principal factors need to be controlled and/or abandoned in already impacted areas. Conservation strategies should particularly consider the strict protection of remaining intact forests and both lentic and lotic aquatic systems. They are not only crucial for safeguarding a significant number of species that depend on these habitats for reproduction; they also provide key ecosystem services to the local population. Angola, and Uíge province in particular, is at a crossroads concerning decisions and trade-offs among utilization, conservation, and preservation of its forests and, thus, substantial parts of the country’s biodiversity. The establishment of a National Protected Area in the Serra do Pingano Ecosystem is therefore a necessary and urgently needed first step towards protecting Angola’s national biodiversity heritage.