| Croaking up a storm
Kalpetta (Kerala), April 7 (PTI): An influx of a threatened species of frogs is making life miserable for a cluster of hamlets in Wayanad district.
Experts say the phenomenon could be the first sign of an “ecological catastrophe” caused by dams.
As thousands of small, brownish frogs ' called Rana curpipes by scientists ' make their way from the Banasura Sagar reservoir in the district, people in nearby villages have been finding it difficult to walk without trampling on the amphibians.
“They come in masses during night. They leap around the farms and enter the houses. They die within two days of reaching the land, leaving the whole area stinking. A large number of them leap into wells, spoiling the water. This is the first time we are experiencing such a problem,” a villager said.
Vehicles cannot move without crushing them, leaving the remains strewn around. The problem becomes more acute when it rains.
“This is a species that is under threat in the Western Ghats,” said veterinarian Anil Zacharia, who has been researching on amphibians of the region.
These frogs are mostly found in areas close to forest streams in Wayanad, he added. With the streams drying up because of environmental degradation, the frogs make their way to the Banasura Sagar reservoir.
The rise in the water level in the reservoir, which forms part of the Kuttiyadi project, could have led to a spurt in the number of frogs. But this could be a temporary phenomenon, Zacharia said.
The metamorphosis of tadpoles of this species takes a long time. The tadpoles used to grow in forest streams and nearby plantations.
Usually, only 10 per cent of the tadpoles would mature into frogs. But having found the reservoir as a breeding ground, there may have been a sudden spurt in the maturity rate. On attaining maturity, the frogs are making their way to land through the shallow waters, Zacharia said.
As the frogs need high moisture content in their bodies, they cannot survive for long without a thick forest canopy, he added.