Monday, June 18, 2018

Deadly amphibian species spreading in Sahyadris


PUNE: Certain amphibian species in the Sahyadris, in the Western Ghats, are under threat from chtytrid infection caused by Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd.) fungus.

A five-year study - commissioned by the Royal Society of the United Kingdom and conducted by researchers from the UK, the US and Indian universities - has concluded that the Bd. fungus, known to eliminate entire populations of amphibians in some parts of the world, has now been found in endangered amphibian species in northern Western Ghats. The researchers started collecting samples during the monsoon of 2013 and 2014. The team found that 79% of the tested species tested positive. 

“It is believed that trade in amphibians between countries spread the pathogen. How it is transmitted in India is not very clear. In other countries, it has been found to be more common near people, villages etc. So unrecognised human vectors may be the transmission route,” said Chris Thorpe, a researcher at the University of Plymouth, and the lead author of the paper.

Shockingly, the state forest department is not even aware of the threat. “We generally focus on the larger fauna in the Western Ghats ecosystem and most of the research is on them,” said a senior official of the state forest department.

All the tested species were from north Western Ghats. “The lower temperatures above the Western Ghats escarpment provide an ideal environment for the pathogen,” Thorpe said. He suggests setting up reserves in warmer climates - like the south Konkan region - besides other human interventions. “People should not move amphibians or anything that lives in freshwater between places, even if those places are close by. If people are moving between places with water, then they should disinfect footwear and vehicle tires,” he said.

Local residents said the low lying areas receive adequate water supply, however, those areas located uphill often face shortage of water. Meanwhile, officials in PMC’s water supply department said that they were sure of completing the work within the deadline. The officials said that the contractors have already been appointed. The ground work would begin in the next few days.

A senior official said, “Though two tanks are already distributing water, there was no alternative in case both tanks faced any technical problem. The third tank is coming up on a plot adjacent to the existing two tanks,” he said.


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