The Indian Purple Frog ( Nasikabatrachus sahyadrensis ), an endangered amphibian endemic to the southern Western Ghats, could be facing a direct threat to its existence from tribespeople who consume the tadpoles of the species on a large scale.
Researchers Ashish Thomas and S.D. Biju from the Department of Environmental Studies, University of Delhi, have provided quantitative evidence to show that the evasive species is declining in numbers.
The findings of the five-year study carried out as part of Mr. Thomas’ PhD research under the guidance of Dr. Biju have been published in the recent issue of the international journal Salamandra .
It was in 2003 that Dr. Biju and Brussels-based scientist Franky Bossuyt reported the discovery of Nasikabatrachus sahyadrensis as a new family of frogs whose lineage had survived for about 120 million years, right from the age of dinosaurs.
During the current study, the researchers found that tadpole consumption was prevalent among tribal folk in Idukki as a practice dating back to the time when they settled in the area 40 years ago.
The tadpoles are netted in basket traps, seasoned with salt, spices and grated coconut and then steamed and eaten with boiled rice or tapioca as a monsoon delicacy. Some tribespeople were also found to consume adult frogs for their purported medicinal properties.
“The Indian Purple Frog is considered a flagship species for conservation of the Western Ghats biodiversity hotspot region,” says Dr. Thomas.
“This finding is a wake-up call for conservation activists and professionals,” Dr. Thomas adds.
“Most of the available tadpoles were found to have been harvested for consumption by tribal households. At this rate, the local population of this amphibian is destined to disappear in five to 10 years,” Dr. Biju says.
The researchers have highlighted the need for conservation measures to mitigate the threat faced by the species. They propose education and awareness programmes for tribal communities cohabiting with the purple frog, along with more employment opportunities for tribal youth.
More than 40 per cent of the amphibian fauna in the Western Ghats is facing extinction, largely due to conversion of their natural habitat for settlements, farms and industries.