By Snehaa Sundaram and Amrit Menon, Wildlife Trust of India

Western Ghats in India, one of global biodiversity hotspots and UNESCO World Heritage site, is home to a miscellany of taxa including about 170 amphibian species, new ones continue to be discovered every year. However, the rich biodiversity of the Western Ghats is facing threats of habitat fragmentation.

Wildlife Trust of India (WTI), a leading Indian nature conservation non-profit organization adopts a comprehensive approach to conserving biodiversity through long and short term measures including on-ground action to address emergent conservation needs through its Rapid Action Projects. People and nature go hand in hand, unquestionably several studies point to the success stories of community-based conservation models in a habitat. With the realization that wildlife in India is afflicted by a gamut of threats the concept of Rapid Action projects was introduced to promote partnerships with committed individuals and grassroots agencies, who are provided a multitude of resources to bring synergies for conservation at local level.

WTI has been working with communities in the Western Ghats to secure wildlife corridors for Asian elephants (Elephas maximus), protecting flora such as Strobilanthes kunthiana and equipping people to tackle natural disasters such as forest fires, landslides etc. In addition to our work in the landscape, WTI’s expertise in Species Recovery in a wide range of taxa has paved the way to a project with the local community of Munnar, Kerala state in an attempt to revive the declining population of the Anamalai Flying frog or also known as False Malabar Gliding frog (Rhacophorus pseudomalabaricus).

Anuran Taxa often referred to ‘indicator species signify their sensitive nature to habitat alterations owing to a rapid decline in their population. This Critically Endangered species found in the tropical evergreen forests of the Southern Western Ghats in South India had taken an unusual liking to the cardamom plantations of Kerala, bringing them closer than ever to human presence. The myth behind the species consuming cardamom coupled with the use of pesticides in the plantation were seen to reflect upon the low tolerance levels in the community and the species existence. The frog being highly range restricted, both within and outside Protected area networks there was a need to identify key areas of a breeding population and introduce conservation measures.

Through this project, the team has identified current nesting sites to monitor the species and two alternative sites, where makeshift waterholes in a natural setup have been designed to promote their population growth. Using a multi-stakeholder approach by involving plantation owners and Forest department authorities we plan to address the threat of pesticide use and promote organic farming methods in the landscape. Through close monitoring and community involvement we hope to witness a recovery in the Anamalai Flying frog population.

Photo © Renjith Hadlee