The first-ever herpetofaunal survey conducted in the Thiruvananthapuram wildlife division has recorded 67 amphibian and 80 reptile species, many of which have been classified as vulnerable, endangered and near-threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
The recent survey covered all protected areas spread across 212 sq.km. including Neyyar and Peppara wildlife sanctuaries, and the Agasthyavanam Biological Park. The four-day exercise was jointly organised by the Forest department and the non-governmental organisation Aranyakam Nature Foundation.
Nearly 75 volunteers from research institutions including University of Calicut; Kerala Forest Research Institute; College of Forestry; St. Joseph’s College, Irinjalakuda; Farooq College, Kozhikode; and other NGOs including Travancore Natural History Society and Malabar Natural History Society participated in the society.
The Orange-lipped Lizard that was recorded at the Peppara wildlife sanctuary is one of the rarest species of reptile in the Western Ghats. The sighting was only the fifth to be recorded from Agasthyamalais, one of the lead researchers Sandeep Das said.
As many as 55 Western Ghats-endemic amphibian species including Spotted leaping frog, Beddome’s toad, Kallar Torrent frog, and Kani bush frog were spotted. The findings also included critically endangered species including the Chalazodes Bubble-nest frog and the Large Ponmudi bush frog. The 16 species that figured in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species were all recorded during the survey.
The survey team stressed on the need for detailed studies into the sighting of a species of Caecilian and three species of Shield-tailed snakes during the survey. The exercise also recorded three amphibian and 10 reptile species that were hitherto unreported from these protected areas.
Dr. Das said Neyyar and Peppara wildlife sanctuaries had more amphibian diversity than any other protected area in the State.
Out of the 80 reptiles that were recorded, as many as 42 are found in the Western Ghats alone, while eight species figured in the IUCN Red List. These include the Cochin Forest Cane Turtle and the Indian kangaroo lizard (endangered category), and Mugger crocodile, and Travancore tortoise (vulnerable category).
Co-researcher Rajkumar K.P. said the records of the Travancore cat snake, Keeled vine snake, Travancore vine snake, and Travancore pit viper indicate the importance of the rich biodiversity in the Agasthyamala Biosphere Reserve.
Thiruvananthapuram wildlife warden Suresh Babu I.S. told The Hindu that a checklist of the herpetofaunal species would be maintained to closely monitor the biological diversity in the region.