Written by Madhuboni Banerjee
At an event held at the Savitribai Phule Pune University on October 4 as a part of Wildlife Week, eminent herpetologist Dr Varad Giri stressed that the conservation and protection of reptiles and amphibians also need to be considered. While there are ample efforts for conservation of tigers and lions, reptile conservation is hugely neglected in the process. Although there are discoveries of new species of reptiles, the efforts of conserving them are not enough, he said.
“The Maharashtra caecilian or Humbarli caecilian (scientific name Indotyphlus maharashtraensis) is a species of limbless, snake-like amphibians who mostly live underground and are particularly found in the Humbarli region of Satara. Another species of caecilians, the Indotyphlus battersbyi, was recently spotted at Paymaster park in Matheran, first spotted in Lonavala and Khandala regions in 1960. They are extremely rare, and found in only those regions. That’s how unique the habitat of the Northern Western Ghats is,” said Giri. He is a Post Doctoral Research Fellow and Curator of Herpetofauna at the National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS). Giri has been focusing his research on the caecilians, geckos and lizards of the less explored North Western Ghats, which covers southeastern Gujarat to Karnataka, since 2001.
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“Apart from India’s biodiversity hotspots, there are innumerable number of reptiles remaining to be explored across the entire expanse. Diversity has been grossly underestimated, especially in herpetofauna. There are discoveries of new reptiles and amphibians everyday, however, the information required to conserve them, like their living and eating habits, are not yet known or documented. Therefore, conserving them becomes a herculean task,” he says. He has found a tremendous untapped treasure trove of reptiles during his research work in the North Western Ghats.
“While working in these regions, I’ve realised that a certain species of the cobra snake and draco lizard was found only in Goa, and not any other part of the Western Ghats. Whether this pertains to a particular habitat or food preferences only, that still needs to be found.” he adds.
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