www.mampam.comFrogs of Coorg



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2. Introduction
The forests of the Western Ghats are known to contain very diverse assemblages of
amphibians. However there have been comparatively few studies of amphibian
communities in the area. The facts that most of the Western Ghats amphibians are very
poorly known and that the remaining forest fragments are being destroyed at an alarming
rate makes studies of the region’s fauna an urgent priority. This study describes the
anuran communities at Lackunda Estate, a coffee plantation in Coorg, (Karnataka, India)
on the border of Nagarhole National Park. The project was conducted during July and
August 1998.
The aims of the project were
1. To determine the species composition of the amphibian population at Lackunda and
make estimates of relative abundance and habitat use for each species
2. To produce an audio-visual guide to the amphibians of the region that will facilitate
field identifications and publicise the existence and plight of the Western Ghats
amphibians.
3. To document the larval stages of anurans breeding in the area.
An additional and unfulfilled aim was to compare amphibian communities in different
areas of the Western Ghats. Early in the project it became apparent that, even with a large
and enthusiastic team, the frog communities at Lackunda alone would be difficult to
survey properly in the time available. It was decided that it was better to do justice to one
site, rather than to make cursory observations at several.
Six waterbodies around the estate were surveyed with quadrats over periods of 5-20
nights to provide data on relative abundance and habitat use. Eight lines of pitfall traps
were set, split between coffee plantation and an uncultivated sacred grove adjacent to the
national park, to provide data on movement patterns and habitat use. The calls of all
anurans heard in the area were recorded with a Sennheiser microphone and a Sony
WMD6C recorder. Small samples of eggs and tadpoles were maintained and raised in
captivity and drawings made of larvae at different stages. In addition, observations were
made on the reptiles and birds of the area. Single voucher specimens of most anuran
species were taken, identified by Dr Indraneil Das and deposited at the Zoological Survey
of India, Calcutta.
In total 21 species of amphibians were found. A further four species are suspected on the
grounds of differences in appearance and advertisement calls. The most abundant frogs
were Microhyla spp. and Limnonectes. The rarest frogs were all Philautus species, that
called away from breeding communities and appeared to have very specific habitat
requirements. The community also includes Rhacophorus lateralis, apparently not seen
since its description in 1883, the Malabar flying frog Rhacophorus malabaricus and six
other tree frogs.
We suspect that Lackunda may have a richer amphibian community than other coffee
estates in the region, partly because of its proximity to a large forest reserve but also
because the estate has been managed sympathetically. Use of pesticides is limited, tigers,
elephants and gaur are all frequent visitors and even the cobras are left unmolested. In
the long term, the continued existence of many forest-dependent species will depend on
the presence of corridors through cultivated areas. The elements of habitat crucial to
many amphibians species may be very cheap and easy to provide. The joy that the frogs
of the Western Ghats will bring to the people there, when they are in a position to enjoy
such luxuries, is immeasurable. There is a very real danger that the rarest jewels of these
communities will have become extinct long before the poverty of people is eradicated. In
that case we hope that the recordings accompanying this report will attest to what they
have been robbed of.
The team is very grateful to Dr K. C. Medappa, his family and his employees, for their
wonderful hospitality and assistance throughout the project















Images and text Daniel Bennett and Katie Hampson 2000

Sounds British Library of Wildlife Sounds 1998

 

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