The first stage survey of the reptile and amphibian population in the protected region of the Trivandrum Wildlife Division that includes Neyyar, Peppara wildlife sanctuaries and Agastyavanam biological park has been completed. Even though separate surveys were conducted at each sector earlier, it is for the first time that a joint survey has been conducted in the region by researchers, students and wild life enthusiasts.
In the survey, conducted by the Kerala Forest Department in association with Aranyakam Nature Foundation, during September 22 – 25, students and researchers from around fifteen educational institutions and research centres, more than 75 volunteers from NGOs like Malabar Nature History Society and Travancore Natural History Society and forest officials too had taken part.
St. Joseph’s College, Irinjalakkuda, Kerala Forest Research Institute, University of Calicut, University of Kerala, Kerala Veterinary and Animal Sciences University, College of Forestry and Farook College are some of the educational institutes that were part of the survey.
The survey was headed by Suresh Babu IS, wildlife warden of Trivandrum Wildlife division and researchers Dr. Sandeep Das, Dr. Rajkumar KP, Nithin Diwakar, Neyyar assistant wildlife warden Brijesh Vatsan, Peppara assistant wildlife warden Salin Jose, Agastyavanam assistant wildlife warden Aneesh Kumar and Aranyakam Manager Trustee Dhruvaraj S.
The protected forest area that sprawls in more than 212 square kilo metres was divided into 17 camps, in order to conduct the survey. Forest officials, researchers, students and nature enthusiasts worked day and night, to record around 67 species of amphibians and more than 80 varieties of reptiles in the scientifically conducted survey. The volunteers and the forest officials did the survey in two shifts, from 8 am to 12 pm and from 6 pm to 12 am.
The Orange Lipped Lizard that was found in the Peppara wildlife sanctuary is a rare kind of reptile that is found in the Western Ghats. Dr. Sandeep Das said that this is only the fifth time that this species, which was found only in the Agastyamala region, is being recorded. The survey team was of the opinion that more studies should be conducted about a type of Caecilian and three types of Shieldtail snakes. This survey was able to find 3 varieties of amphibians and around 10 types of reptiles from the protected areas, that weren’t recorded in the earlier surveys. Wildlife warden Suresh Babu IS, in the closing ceremony, said that not just wild elephants and tigers but amphibians and reptiles too were part of the ecology and that such surveys were a starting point in an effort to protect them.
Among the 67 varieties of amphibians, around 55 species, including Spotted Leaping Frog, Beddome’s Toad, Kallar Torrent Frog and Kani Bussh Frog are endemic to the Western Ghats. Meanwhile, around 16 varieties that were included in critically endangered and endangered and vulnerable categories of the red list published by IUCN too were recorded in the survey. Chalazodes Bubble Nest frog and Large Ponmudi Bush Frog that belong to the critically endangered list were spotted. Dr. Sandeep Das said that the Neyyar Peppara wildlife sanctuary was home to some of the unique varieties of amphibians.
Among the 80 varieties of reptiles, 42 are seen only in the Western Ghats. Around 8 varities of reptiles have been added in the red list of IUCN’s Vulnerable, Endangered, Near Threatened categories. Cochin Cane Turtle and Indian Kangaroo Lizard are included in the Endangered category while Mugger Crocodile and Travancore Tortoise are in the Vulnerable category.
Meanwhile, Dr. Rajkumar said that spotting the Travancore Cat Snake which is quite rare among the species of cat snakes, Kaleed Vine Snake which is only found in Agastyamala region and the Travancore Pit Viper in the survey indicated the significance of the Agastyamala region as a major habitat of unique varieties of reptiles.