The fate of the purple frog, one of the threatened species mostly found in the Western Ghats, on whether it is officially declared as Kerala's state frog or not will be known today. The decision will be taken at an online meeting of the state Forest and Wildlife Board to be chaired by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. If announced so, Kerala will be the first state to have an official frog.
The purple frog belongs to the list of more than eight thousand amphibian species, which are facing the threat of extinction.
Though the purple frogs were familiar to the humans living close to the forest areas of the Western Ghats for a long time, it was introduced to the scientific world only in 2003. It was then christened with the scientific name Nasikabatrachus sahyadrensis through the efforts of Dr S.D. Biju, an amphibian biologist, wildlife conservationist and head of the Systematics Lab at the Dept. of Environmental Studies, University of Delhi.
Dr Biju is dubbed as the ‘frogman of India’ by the media due to his passion for frogs. Though the early studies had revealed these frogs reside underground, more studies about their procreation and other habits were conducted
only some 10 years later. Though the species has been recorded to be foraging on termites, earthworms and small insects underground, a clear picture of their food or foraging pattern were yet to emerge. It is found to have a life cycle and procreation adapted to the climatic conditions of the Western Ghats.
The Western Ghats that fringes Kerala and a few other Indian states are rich in biodiversity. The presence of the purple frog, was found again at Edathanattukara near Alanallur in Palakkad district in 2019. Two purple frogs were discovered on the outskirts of the forest area that lies close to the buffer zone of Silent Valley by C.G. Vipin, an environmental enthusiast and Chemistry teacher at Govt. HSS, Edathanattukara and Nihal Jebin, a petrochemical engineering graduate and a teacher of Kallady High School, Mannarkkad.
In May 2019 researcher Sandeep Das, who studied Purple Frog at the Forest Research Institute, recommended the forest department officially declare the species as the state frog. Sandeep is a faculty with St Joseph's College in Iringalakkuda in Eranakulam district.
The purple frogs are usually found near streams or small waterfalls that appear during the monsoons but remain dried up during summer. Their mating and procreation take place when these streamlets reappear during the first rains, thus enabling them to save the tadpoles from the attack of larger fish and other forms of water fauna that may be present in the normal streams and rivers.
The purple frog is known locally under many names including Pathal, Kuravan, Kurathi, Kotran, Pathayal, Pannimookkan and Parameen. It has also been found in the neighbouring Tamil Nadu.