Udayavni Special

“Mahabali frog” may be Kerala’s official amphibian

Team Udayavani, Nov 8, 2020, 4:36 PM IST

Photo credit: Sandeep Das (Source: Sanctuary Nature Foundation)


Kochi: The purple frog, one of the rarest frog species endemic to the Western Ghats, would soon be declared as Kerala’s official amphibian. A senior forest officer said a proposal for declaring the purple frog, also known as pignose frog, as state’s amphibian, is in the active consideration of the state government.

“The proposal is in the active consideration of the government and soon it will be declared as the state’s amphibian,”Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife) & Chief Wildlife Warden Surendrakumar told PTI. The matter will be discussed in the next meeting of the state wildlife board.

Official sources said the move to declare it as the state’s amphibian as it was mostly endemic to Kerala region of Western Ghats. According to Delhi University professor S D Biju, who discovered the frog a few years ago in the Idukki district, said it is not only a rare frog species but is also one of the unique amphibians.

Talking to PTI, Biju said the purple frog, which remains underground most of the year, is found mostly in the Kerala part of the Western Ghats. The frog was found in one forest area of Tamil Nadu also, Biju said.

The purple frog, scientifically called “Nasikabatrachus sahyadrensis” is listed as endangered in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as its “Extent of Occurrence is less than 5,000 km, all individuals are in fewer than five locations, and there is continuing decline in the extent and quality of its habitat in the Cardamom Hills.”

According to WWF, the leading organisation in wildlife conservation and endangered species, purple frog has been acknowledged by bio-geographers all over the world as one of the rarest kinds and a “once in a century find.” It said the purple frog has a bloated body with short stout limbs and is dark purple to greyish in colour.

“Reaching to about 7 centimetres, it has a small head in comparison to the body length, and an unusually pointed snout. Its short and muscular forelimbs with hard palms help it to burrow underground. Unlike other frogs, it has very short hind legs, which does not allow it to leap from one spot to another. As a result, it covers any distance with long strides. It depends more on its sense of smell to hunt out soil termites underground,” the conservation organisation said.

The proposal for declaring the purple frog as the state amphibian was submitted to the forest department by Sandeep Das, who does research on frogs at the Kerala Forest Research Institute. Das, also EDGE Fellow at Zoological Society of London, named it as the “Mahabali frog” as it emerges from under the ground for only one day, like Keralas mythological King Mahabali who was banished to the underworld and given permission to meet his subjects in Kerala during Thiruvonam day of Malayalam month of Chingam.

Talking to PTI, he said the purple frog was recommended as a strong candidate for the state amphibian as it was easy to recognise, resemblance to King Mahabali visiting above ground for a single day and one of the most popular frogs in the world. He said the frog can act as ambassador for amphibian conservation in the Western Ghats region of the state.

By conserving the Mahabali frog the whole aquatic ecosystem along with the biodiversity of Western Ghats can be conserved, Das said.

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