Conservation workshop on amphibians of Western Ghats

Starting July 29, the practicum — Lost! Amphibians of India (LIA) — will emphasise on techniques to identify amphibians and document reliable information relevant to their monitoring and conservation. LIA is an initiative coordinated by the UoD, IUCN/SSC Amphibian Specialist Group, Conservation International, Global Wildlife Conservation and the Natural History Museum of London. 

According to the researchers amphibians form the second largest group of land animals with about 7,000 species. India has over 347 species of amphibians that are unique, both in their diversity and endemism, and about two third (65 per cent) of them are not seen anywhere else in the world.  The significance of amphibians, which are said to be neglected, is tremendous as they are indicator species of the environmental factors such as quality of water and pollution.

They are also said to control the population of insects and the spread of diseases in the eco-system. According to the LIA programme, around 50 amphibian species, including frogs and caecilians, described as recently as 18 years ago and as far back as 169 years, have eluded researchers in the field. The amphibians are under threat of extinction with population decline linked to various causes, the major ones among these being habitat loss and fragmentation.

Also, agricultural and industrial pollutants have been associated with amphibian malformations and the altering their gender balance. “No concerted and detailed research has been done on amphibians and there is incomplete information on distribution range. Much of the knowledge on amphibians is outdated, while the continued existence of many species is uncertain. The amphibians that have survived through millions of years are declining in most parts of the world and in India, including the Western Ghats. We want find our lost amphibians, discuss and educate local people to conserve them,” LAI programme coordinator Dr S D Biju said.

Purple frog
One such amphibian is the endangered purple frog of Western Ghats that was discovered in 2003. This species is threatened by ongoing deforestation for plantation of coffee, cardamom and ginger, and is considered the only surviving member of an ancient amphibian family called Nasikabatrachidae.
It has been reported that since the origin of the Nasikabatrachidae, which occurred around 182 million years ago, these frogs have shared habitat with the dinosaurs for 70 million years.

Other amphibians include Amboli tree frog, Bombay bush frog, Indian rock frog, Amboli night frog, Malabar gliding frog, Beddome’s burrowing frog, wrinkled frog, Koyna toad and caecilians, among others.

Did you know?
Five species of amphibians were rediscovered in eight expeditions carried out, mainly in the Western Ghats and the Northeast India, in past two years. The LAI rediscovered rare species of frogs that had been classified ‘missing’ — the Chalazodes bubble-nest frog, Anamalai dot frog, Dehradun stream frog, Silent Valley frog and Elegant tropical frog. 

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