Monday, July 18, 2011

On trail of India's lost amphibians

Reproduction -

Time of India main edition, 17th July 2011

After scouring forests and marshlands across the nation trying to locate rarely sighted amphibians, wildlife researchers and naturalists, who are part of the Lost Amphibians of India (LAI) initiative, will share their findings today at a press conference in Navi Mumbai.

LAI is a search taking place simultaneously in 16 states for 67 amphibian species that have been 'missing' for a period ranging from 16 years to 169 years. Around 24 teams of researchers and nationalists are involved in the project.

Dr Caesar Sen Gupta, who is a member of the expedition teams from Mumbai, said, the aim of the project is to locate species that have not been spotted since their first sighting.

"Until now, five species of amphibians have been rediscovered in the eight expeditions, carried out mainly in the Western Ghats and the Northeast." LAI rediscovered rare frog species, including the Chalazodes bubble-nest frog, Anamalai dot frog, Dehradun stream frog, Silent Valley tropical frog, and the Elegant tropical frog. Each of these species was last seen decades ago, and had been classified 'missing'.

Dr S D Biju, the programme coordinator of LAI, said, "For a successful conservation programme, we first need to know what we have to save.

The fact that these species were rediscovered gives us hope that all is not lost. We have gathered more data on other lost species." With around 341 recorded species, India can be called a 'global hub of amphibians'. On the flip side, however, over 40% of Indian amphibians are facing extinction. LAI hopes to garner more support and spread awareness in the coming months. Monsoon is the best time for such expeditions, and the teams have planned 20 more field trips before the rainy season ends.

According to experts, amphibians are indicator species and act as environmental barometers, making them an important part of the ecosystem. The roles they play-from controlling the population of insects and the spread of disease to humans and crops-are an important part of the ecology.

Massive habitat loss is one of the main threats that amphibians in India face. "The aim of the project is not only to find our lost amphibians, but also to see how we can conserve and protect their habitats," Biju added.

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