As many as 1,847 species of vertebrates representing a diversity of fishes, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and mammals have survived multiple threats including habitat destruction, invasive alien species, pollution, and climate change to coexist with humanity in Kerala and play a vital role in the State’s ecosystems.
An updated checklist of the vertebrates of Kerala, published in the latest issue of the Journal of Threatened Taxa , lists 905 species of freshwater and marine fishes, 500 species of birds, 173 species of reptiles, 151 species of amphibians, and 118 species of mammals.
The checklist was the culmination of one year of work by a group of taxonomists from Kerala Agricultural University, University of Kerala, Zoological Survey of India, Kerala Forest Research Institute, and the Kerala University of Fisheries and Ocean Studies.
According to the paper, 779 species (42 per cent) of vertebrates in Kerala occur in the marine environment. Fishes form 79 per cent of marine forms, followed by mammals including dolphins, whales, porpoises and sea cows (19%). Among birds, pelagic forms or seabirds account for only six per cent of the total bird species in the State. Among reptiles, the marine forms including sea turtles, leatherback turtle, and sea snakes account for less than five per cent.
As many as 205 species (11%) are listed as threatened in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, of which 23 are critically endangered, 90 are endangered, and 92 vulnerable. According to the authors, 98 vertebrate species of Kerala have been included in Schedule 1 of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, making them eligible for maximum protection. As many as 598 species including the house crow fall in other Schedules of the Act. Only eight per cent of the vertebrates are listed in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of flora and fauna (CITES).