Conservationists chance upon ‘gold’

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Nature’s wonder: A female and male golden gecko found under a boulder on the outskirts of Vellore city.
Nature’s wonder: A female and male golden gecko found under a boulder on the outskirts of Vellore city.

Staff Reporter

The finding of Golden Gecko, a highly endangered reptile, opens new vistas in study on endangered species

TIRUPATI: Golden Gecko, a highly endangered reptile found in the Seshachalam hill ranges, has recently been sighted near Vellore area of Tamil Nadu.

‘Calodactylodes aureus’ for zoologists, the gecko is a globally threatened reptile and is protected under Schedule I of the Wildlife Act. As part of his study for a ‘Young Scientist’ project sanctioned by DST’s Science and Engineering Research Council (SERC), M. Rajasekhar, now an Assistant Professor of Zoology at SVU sighted the gecko in the rocky terrain near Otteri to the east of Vellore city and has even reported it in the scientific journal ‘Bio Scan’.

The reptile can be identified by its expanded phalanges and the strikingly golden yellow hue. With the help of a natural sticky substance, it hangs the eggs to the roof of rocks, understandably to protect them from predators. “While the male ones are yellow in colour, the female geckos have brownish tint with a golden aura over it,” Dr. Rajasekhar told The Hindu.

Natural habitat

Rather interestingly, in a survey conducted in the year 2000 by N.V. Nandakumar, a retired professor of zoology and an adviser to Dr. Rajasekhar, the boulders and crevices near the ‘Silathoranam’ (Natural Rock Arch) area on Tirumala hills were identified to be the habitat of the nocturnal geckos. He had also found the geckos taking shelter in the crevices of the Byramkonda Quartzite rocks available only on Tirumala and voiced concern over the indiscriminate removal of the rocks for use as foundation stones for TTD buildings that endangered their lives.

“Similar is the case in Vellore. Apart from the Collectorate and other administrative offices located in the vicinity, two stone crushing units pound the hills in no time, thus endangering their habitat,” a worried Dr. Rajasekhar said. Once considered endemic to Tirumala, the presence of the reptile in Vellore is expected to open new vistas in the study on its conservation.



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