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Updated: June 26, 2011 00:25 IST

In search of lost species

P. Venugopal
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File photo of S.D. Biju of the University of Delhi, who is coordinating an expedition to locate some 50 species of amphibians that had eluded sighting since the time they were first reported. Photo: Special Arrangement
File photo of S.D. Biju of the University of Delhi, who is coordinating an expedition to locate some 50 species of amphibians that had eluded sighting since the time they were first reported. Photo: Special Arrangement

Expedition across the country to locate missing amphibians

Several groups of scientists and naturalists have spread out to the forests and marshes across the country this monsoon in a coordinated expedition to try to locate some 50 species of amphibians that had eluded sighting since the time they were first reported.

“These species have been missing for periods ranging from 16 years to 169 years,” said S.D. Biju of the University of Delhi, in an e-mail message to The Hindu on Saturday.

He is coordinating this expedition known as Lost Amphibians of India, supported by the Amphibian Specialist Group of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund, Kerala Forest Department and the University of Delhi.

The search is taking place simultaneously in 15 States, because the monsoon season is the best time for locating frogs that erupt into a croaking chorus after the rains.

“Our teams have already conducted eight expeditions, coming out with some encouraging results. We have drawn up plans for 25 more expeditions during this monsoon in areas where these species may still be surviving unnoticed,” Dr. Biju said.

The project is aimed not only at locating the lost species, but also proposing measures to conserve them and their habitats.

India is a mega centre of amphibian diversity, being home to more than 350 species. Sixty-seven per cent of these species cannot be seen anywhere else in the world. Although new finds point to the clear possibility of the existence of many undiscovered species in the country, a worrying number of the already discovered species are not to be spotted nowadays in their originally reported habitats.

Amphibians have lived on earth for a period that is 5,000 times more than the period of human existence. “They are the barometers of the health of the environment. Their fast rate of extinction in the recent decades, therefore, is a serious omen,” Dr. Biju said.

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