A new bullfrog species discovered at Wilderness Mombo



Louis du Preez


Discovering a new species

Beytell’s bullfrog (Pyxicephalus beytelli)

Until recently, three species of bullfrogs were recognised in Southern Africa – now a new bullfrog has been discovered. The discovery of this new species harks back to January of 2010, when a student named Marleen Le Roux (now Byron), working for Wilderness and based at Wilderness Mombo, found a bullfrog that she thought looked different. She showed it to me as part of her Master’s that she was doing at the time on the frogs of the Okavango Delta, and I agreed that it was indeed unique. We performed molecular analyses on the frog and were able to confirm that it appeared to be a different species from the known giant bullfrog.

Frogging in Namibia

An opportunity to find more of these bullfrogs then presented itself in 2021 when Dr Francois Jacobs of the Namibian Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources invited me to conduct a frog and reptile survey in the Khaudum-Nyae Nyae ecosystem with himself and Mr Piet Beytell from the Namibian Ministery of Environment, Forestry and Tourism. We also involved Dr Ed Netherlands from Free State University (another former student), and Dr Francois Becker and his team from the National Museum of Namibia, to conclude a survey in the Khaudum National Park in Namibia’s Caprivi Strip, funded by the Kwando Carnivore Project.





We were able to find the frog again and realised that it must be the same one. This was later to be confirmed with molecular data. 

Why is this frog discovery significant?

Globally, this is the biggest frog discovery in 104 years, and is evolutionarily significant. The frog has been named the Beytell’s bullfrog (Pyxicephalus beytelli) in honour of the late Ben Beytell. Ben was one of Namibia’s foremost conservationists, with 35 years of distinguished service, ending his career as Director of Parks and Wildlife in what is now Namibia’s Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism. The ecological value of Khaudum is what led the late Ben Beytell to motivate and negotiate for its proclamation as a protected area, first as a game reserve in 1989 and then as a national park in 2008.




Frogging training for Wilderness guides

While working with Marleen, several Wilderness guides had questions about frogs and were clearly eager to know more, especially about the frogs they encountered during mokoro trips. They shared with me many stories, including a fascinating encounter where one of the guides at Xigera told me that the bigger reed frogs would eat the small green ones. When I was hesitant to believe him, he told me he had proof, as one of his guests photographed it. Amazingly, I was able to track her down and get permission to include the picture in my field guide. 



Image by Marietjie Brown



After my research trip to Namibia, I was privileged to provide frogging training for the guides in the Okavango Delta, while traveling with my wife to some of the Wilderness camps. We had an amazing guide, Ona, during this trip, who I will never forget. My words to my wife were that I was the student and Ona was really the professor of zoology. For my wife, it was a trip that will forever remain a highlight in her life. In her words, “I was blown away by the hospitality and by what Wilderness can present in the bush. The accommodation and food were out of this world and the game-viewing experience was on the next level”.

Beytell’s bullfrog (Pyxicephalus beytelli)

About the Author

Louis du Preez

A Professor of Zoology at North-West University, where he heads the African Amphibian Conservation Research Group. He has authored more than 150 scientific papers and nine books, including an authoritative field guide to the frogs of Southern Africa, and a user-friendly app for smart phones and tablets, titled "Complete Guide to Frogs of Southern Africa".

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