Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Montane Trinket snake documented in Virdi forests

Researchers working under the aegis of the Mhadei Bachao Abhiyaan have reported the documentation and photographic evidence of yet another forest species of snake- the Montane Trinket snake from the forests that surround the site of the Virdi Irrigation project in Maharashtra.
The Montane Trinket snake (Coelognathus helena monticollaris) is a non venomous species of forest snake that is endemic to India and has previously been documented in the Mhadei Wildlife sanctuary and the Mollem National Park of Goa. Found in the Western Ghats of India, this species is found only in certain parts of Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka besides Maharashtra and Goa.
Being a slender bodied snake with a distinct coloration of a light olive brownish body and blackish spots accompanied by traverse stripes of white, the Montane Trinket snake prefers mixed moist deciduous and evergreen forest habitats and has on some occasions been observed to take residence in caves as well as abandoned man made structures. A diurnal snake which is also active at night, the behavior of this species is poorly studied and is acknowledged as an important species for reptile conservation. Viviparous in nature i.e. giving birth to live young, this species is feeds on small mammals, birds, amphibians and other snakes too. It catches its prey with the help of camouflage and stealth and kills by constriction.
Three specimens of this species were recorded in the forests that surround the proposed Irrigation project while on a survey trip by a team of field researchers including Nirmal Kulkarni who has been documenting the Herpetofauna of this region for the past decade. The Ornate Gliding snake (Chrysopelea ornata), the Boulengor’ Bronze back snake (Dendrelaphis bifrenalis), the Brown Vine snake ( Ahaetulla pulverulenta) and the Olive Forest snake ( Rhabdops olivaceus) have previously been recorded from this region which connects the forests of the Mhadei Wildlife sanctuary on one side and the reserved forests of Karnataka on the other and the rate of endemism is high in this region which is collectively called the Mhadei Bio Region. Besides which the number of Globally threatened species of reptiles and amphibians is also significant in these forests
Besides reptiles and amphibians, the region is home to a diversity of wildlife including large mammals like the tiger and leopard, slender loris and rare birds like the Long Billed Vulture and the Sri Lankan Frogmouth.
The documentation of species like the Montane Trinket snake and other such species from the area which is slated for submergence and irreversible habitat destruction due to the Virdi Irrigation project is a cause for serious concern amongst ecologists and there is an urgent need to ascertain the impacts of the proposed project on the biodiversity of the region.

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