A herpetofaunal survey conducted in the Parambikulam Tiger Reserve has found 18 new species of amphibians, brightening the arguments for furthering the conservation of the protected region.
The study, commissioned by the Parambikulam Tiger Conservation Foundation, has revealed that the protected tiger reserve is home to one-third of the total amphibian species found in Kerala.
As many as 59 species of amphibians belonging to two orders and 10 families were recorded in the survey held recently. In the last survey held in 2016, only 41 amphibian species had been documented in Parambikulam. Kerala has recorded 176 amphibian species so far.
An endemic frog species called swamp tree frog or Thekkan chathuppan ( Mercurana myristicapalustris ) was found for the first time in Parambikulam.
Similarly, another endemic frog called Indian dot frog or Chengal kurivalan ( Uperodon mormoratus ) was also recorded for the first time in the tiger reserve. It was rarely found south of Palakkad Gap in the Western Ghats.
“The results of the survey were excellent compared to other major protected areas in the State,” said Parambikulam Tiger Reserve deputy director Vysak Sasikumar, who coordinated the study.
As many as 34 amphibian species found in the tiger reserve are classified as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Mr. Sasikumar said that 37 species were endemic to the Western Ghats and 11 were endemic to Kerala. “The findings enhance the value of the Parambikulam Tiger Reserve as a well-protected repository of biodiversity and endemism,” he said.
When Cholakarumbi ( Melanobatrachus indicus ), a rare and endangered frog species called galaxy frog, was identified from multiple locations, Pathala thavala ( Nasikabatrachus sahyadrensis ) or purple frog was also recorded with its tadpoles in Parambikulam.
The study was done in three phases, covering the active breeding time of the amphibians in the Western Ghats from July to October. It covered both the southwest monsoon and the retreating northeast monsoon.
A visual encounter survey (VES) formed the crux of the mapping. The locations for the survey were selected based on altitude, forest type, vegetation, and microhabitat conditions. Besides, the amphibians and reptiles encountered by the forest staff during patrolling were also considered.
Herpetologist Sujith V. Gopalan and conservation biologist Vishnu Vijayan led the survey along with the staff of the Parambikulam Tiger Reserve.