The first stage survey of reptiles in the Munnar wild life division that includes six protected forest regions have been completed. Even though separate surveys have been conducted at each sector, it is for the first time that survey of reptiles is conducted at Iravikulam, Pambadum Sholai, Anamudi Sholai and Mathikettan Shola national parks and Chinnar and Kurinjimala wild life sanctuaries that are part of the Munnar wild life division.
Around fifteen educational institutes including Kerala Forest Research Institute and Forestry College and many GOOs like Malabar Nature History Society Soochimugham, MTI and NGI took part in the survey, conducted jointly by the Kerala Wild Life Department and Aranyakam Nature Foundation from July 20 to 24. Besides, around 95 volunteers too, were part of the survey.
The survey was headed by Wild Life Warden of Munnar wild life division Vinod SV, Aryanakam Nature Foundation Chairman and former head of Kerala Forest Research Institute Dr PS Esa, researchers Sandeep Das, Rajkumar KP, Iravikulam Wild Life Warden Job Neriaparambil, Shola Assistant Wild Life Warden Arun K Nair, Chinnar Assistant Wild Life Warden Nithinlal, Wild Life Assistant Ajeeesh AS, Nithin Diwakar, Abdul Riyas and Dhruvraj.
The protected forest area that sprawls in more than 230 square kilo metres was divided into 28 camps in order to conduct the survey. Forest officials, researchers, students and nature enthusiasts worked hard day and night, to record around 60 species of amphibians and 74 varieties of reptiles in the scientifically conducted the survey. The volunteers and the forest officials carried out the survey from 8 am to 12 pm and from 6 pm to 12 am.
One variety of caecilian, two types of shieldtail and a species of ground gecko that were found in Iravikulam national park are reckoned to be new for the scientific world. Researcher Sandeep Das said that more studies have to be conducted to know more details. Besides, 4 types of amphibians and 6 types of reptiles that weren’t found in the earlier surveys have been newly found in the area.
Around 45 varieties of endemic frogs including Kadalar Swamp Frog, Toad Skinned Leaping frog, Munnar Torrent Frog, Cold Stream Torrent Frog were found in the survey. Moreover, around 20 varieties of frogs including the Resplendent Shrub Frog, Sushil’s Bush Frog, Anamala Gliding Frog, Griet Bush Frog that have been included in IUCN’s red list of critically endangered frogs species too have been recorded. Gunther’s Toad that were spotted only thrice at two different places in Kerala was found again at the Chinnar wild life area.
The Resplendent Shrub Frog, even though included in the list of severely endangered species, was spotted in abundance at the Iravikulam national park. This species was recorded as the second most populated one in the meadows of Iravikulam. Kodaikanal Bush Frog was commonly found everywhere except a few camps in the lower areas of Chinnar. Interestingly, the Kodaikanal Bush Frog which mostly seen in the higher areas of Kodaikanal, Munnar, Periyar tiger reserve and Meghamala wild life park are unique morphs.
Among the 75 reptiles that have been recorded in the survey, 29 species are only found in the Western Ghats. Besides, around nine species are included in endangered and near threatened categories in IUCN’s red list. Star Tortoise, Mugger Crocodile and Pied – Bellied Shieldtail are included in the vulnerable category and Rurk’s Cat Skink, Bengal Monitor Lizard, Indian Rock Python, Common Sand Boa, Gunther’s Vine Snake are included in the near threatened category.
Star Tortoise, Red – Spotted Shieldtail, Large – Scaled Forest Lizard and Yellow – Green Cat Snake were spotted. Besides, the three – lined shieldtail that has only been recorded thrice, Anamala Wood Snake that was found in the Iravikulam national park and three species of geckos that were recorded in 2021 at Mathikettan Chola too were found in the survey. Indian Garden Lizard, Anamala Spiny Lizard, Common Keeled Skink, Gunther’s Vine Snake and Large – Scaled Pit Viper were spotted in around twelve camps. Moreover, South Indian Rock Agama that is commonly seen in Chinnar and Anamala Spiny Lizard that is found in the highest areas of Munnar too have been recorded in this survey. Among the snake species, Gunther’s Vine Snake and Large – Scaled Pit Viper were mostly spotted.