Amphibians in decline- the national and state scenario.
The Save our Frogs Campaign in Goa is gathering momentum with support from all quarters and while nature lovers ecologists and concerned citizens are joining hands with the Goa Forest Department to create awareness and conserve Indian Bull frogs in particular and all other frog species in general.
It is however important to look at the national scenario too so that we realize the seriousness of the issues at hand concerning Amphibian diversity and about the declining amphibian populations that are now in dire straits.
According to the IUCN Red List of Threatened species, at least 1,856 amphibian species are threatened with extinction, representing 32 percent of all known species worldwide
Scientists fear that more than 50 amphibian species worldwide have already become extinct over the last 15 years alone, which includes over 18 species from South Asia
alone. This high rate of decline of amphibian species across the world provides an indicator for the health of natural ecosystems in all regions and is a cause of concern.
Currently there are approx 427 species that are considered Critically Endangered (CR), 761 are Endangered (EN), and 668 species are Vulnerable (VU) worldwide. In India an Assessment of Amphibians under the Conservation Assessment and Management Plan (CAMP) workshop conducted by Biodiversity Conservation Prioritization Project, India has listed 32 species as Critically Endangered, 71 species as Endangered, 52 species as Vulnerable and 9 species as Near Threatened species. Over 63 species were listed as Data deficient as no research data was available on them.
While 63 percent of Indian amphibians are endemic to India, i.e. found only in the country 37 percent are considered non-endemics and are found across the world besides the country. The Western Ghats is considered as one of the richest areas of endemism as far as amphibian diversity is concerned followed by North East India and Sri Lanka. Goa’s forests are part of the Western Ghats landscape and the need of the hour is to conserve and protect these forests for amphibian conservation.
Threats for amphibian species in India include habitat destruction, fragmentation, and agricultural practices like shifting cultivation, pollution, pesticides and human consumption for meat. The laws that protect amphibian populations include the Wildlife Protection Act, the Biodiversity Act and the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act besides others.
The Jerdon’s Bullfrog, poached for its meat in Goa is listed as Near Threatened while the Indian Bull frog, another victim of large-scale hunting is listed as Vulnerable. The Malabar Gliding Frog, an endemic species of South Asia found in Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary and the Mollem National Park is listed as a Near Threatened species. Amongst other species found in Goa the Beddome’s Leaping frog is listed as Vulnerable while the Jerdon’s Narrow mouthed frog is listed as Near Threatened on a global scale.
The need to intensify policing as well as create awareness amongst the masses of the state as well as national scenario with regards to declining amphibian populations is the need of the hour. It is now a known fact that these lesser known life forms play an important role in every ecosystem and are key indicators of monsoonal patterns, climate change and habitat quality besides a host of other dynamics that influence our environment. It is important that we thus aware that our survival depends on their survival and this is the only way forward.
Nirmal U Kulkarni