Tea plantations threaten amazing purple frog

The Purple frog (Nasikabatrachus sahyadrensis) is a flagship species for conservation in India. Its distribution is restricted to two states in peninsular India, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. It has been reported only from a few localities. According to available information about its range of distribution and potential threat it has been categorized as ‘Endangered’ in IUCN red list.

The life style of purple frog is most interesting and fascinating. It is very challenging to study and understand from a scientific point of view. I have been working on this fascinating animal for the last two years as part of my PhD program supported by EDGE fellowship. My study aims to collect information about various aspects of this frog’s life focusing mainly on breeding behavior and tadpole development. Such a study will help not only in understanding the biology of the frog but will also help in understanding the potential threats faced by this species during various stages in its life.

Purple frog is secretive and hence its study is challenging. More often than not, these frogs are found very near to seasonal streams. These streams begin to flow with the onset of monsoon in the month of May till September – October after which they dry up until the next monsoon season. The frog’s life is mostly spent under the ground and it comes out only during the monsoon for breeding.  During the breeding season, the males can be heard calling from below the ground around these streams. These streams seem to be important places for purple frog to breed.

During our study we found that most of the localities where purple frog is found, are heavily disturbed by human activities. Many plantation areas in purple frog’s home are recent ones (maximum 50 to 70 years old) adjacent to forest. Road construction through these places is also a major concern for the frog. In search of ideal habitat for breeding or other needs it may have to cross the roads, which can be dangerous. Many locals have reported a number of amphibian road kills including those involving Purple Frog.

During my field trip this year, which starts in May 2010, I will be interacting more with the locals and tribal who are living within the habitat of purple frog to find out more about their interactions with the frog and their behavior towards it.  My focus is to educate them about the importance of amphibian conservation with special emphasis on Purple frog. It is high time that effective actions are taken both at small and large scale, for conserving the habitat of Nasikabatrachus before tea gardens completely replace forests of the Western Ghats and our dear frog is left without place to survive.

EDGE needs support to continue conservation projects like this – if you can help please donate here.

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