A leg-up for a rare Ghat amphibian

Galaxy frog identified as flagship species for conservation in Mathikettan

Updated - March 03, 2021 10:40 am IST

Published - March 02, 2021 11:44 pm IST - IDUKKI

The Galaxy frog has been identified as the flagship species for habitat protection in the Mathikettan Shola National Park, on the eastern part of the Western Ghats, in Idukki district.

The Galaxy frog has been identified as the flagship species for habitat protection in the Mathikettan Shola National Park, on the eastern part of the Western Ghats, in Idukki district.

Galaxy frog ( Melanobatrachus indicus ), an amphibian species endemic to the eastern part of the Western Ghats, has been identified as the flagship species for conservation in the Mathikettan Shola National Park, home to rare flora and fauna.

Munnar Wildlife Warden R. Lakshmi says a 15-year management plan for its protection is in place, which will help in studying ecological degeneration, if any, and take corrective measures.

The micro-level conservation plan will also help in protecting the rare flora and fauna there.

Galaxy frogs (in the genus of narrow-mouthed frogs in the family of microhylidae) are listed as endangered in the IUCN (International Union of Conservation of Nature) Red List. Galaxy frog, though small in size, is known by that name due its galaxy-like appearance with striking blue and yellow colour to its skin.

Looking like a microcosm of a galaxy with a million stars, the galaxy frog is one of the 13 amphibian species of around 8,280 worldwide listed as most important. It is in the evolutionarily distinct and globally endangered (EDGE) list under the IUCN.

It is one of the rarely encountered frog species in India with only 10 specimens reported so far, that too in the eastern part of the Western Ghats. Though its first sighting was in 1878 at Anamudi, by a British scientist, it had remained elusive for long.

In Mathikettan, it was first sighted by Bhupathi and team in 2004. Rajkumar K.P., a research fellow under EDGE, later discovered it in Mathikettan, Marayur, Anamudi, and on the Periyar basin at Vallakkadavu.

According to him, the galaxy frog’s immediate relatives are in East Africa. Its habitat preservation gains importance due to its rare distribution.

He says the limited knowledge of its distribution, habitat preference, ecology, and behaviour pattern make it difficult for conservationists to understand the species, potential threats, and develop a conservation strategy.

Mr. Rajkumar, who led a training programme for forest staff in conservation of its habitat in Mathikettan, says as the flagship species for conservation, the micro-level changes that might affect its habitat are taken note of and remedial measures taken. In the long run, it will help in the conservation of the rich biodiversity in Mathikettan.

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