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From Paris on frog study tour

Chilapata (Alipurduar), June 6: A team from National Museum of Natural History in France arrived here today on a tour of the forest where a yet-to-be named species of frog was discovered last year.

The Chilapata forest is home to many amphibians and herpetologist Anne Marie Ohlar, a professor at the Paris institute, had been curious from the time the Zoological Survey of India sent her a sample — only five specimens of the new species had been collected — sometime after July in 2007.

“We cannot name the species yet for its discovery has not come out in any journal,” said 53-year-old Ohlar, who was accompanied by her post-doctoral student Stephane Grosjean.

The new species had been first spotted by Suvodeep Pal, who is now part of Ohlar’s team in Chilapata, 27km from Alipurduar town. In 2006, Pal, a 30-year-old science para-teacher of a high school, had made the forest his home for three months.

“He had then come across the Assam Pointed Frog and Orang Sticky Frog,” said Koushik Deuti, a scientist with ZSI. “These frogs were for the first time spotted in Bengal. Earlier, Orang National Park in Assam was the only other place where they were found.”

It was Deuti, who had sent the samples of the new species to Paris and Utkal University. A specimen was also sent to Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore for DNA analysis. All three laboratories confirmed that the species was a new one, said Deuti.

For Ohlar, this is her first visit to north Bengal. “I have been to Assam. Forests in West Bengal are diverse. I had been in the museum of the ZSI in 2001, I attended a couple of workshops in Coimbatore in 2002 and North Orissa University this year. Here, the forests are on low land area while in Assam they are on high land,” said Ohlar.

The museum in Paris has a huge number of frog samples from China and Myanmar. “But none of them matched the one sent from India,” said Ohlar. The sample interested the professor who at once agreed to visit the forest.

In Bangalore, the recorded call of the new species was analysed. “It may turn out to be a new genus. We think Suvodeep has done a great job. Conservation of this rich habitat is essential because amphibians like frogs play an important role in maintaining the bio-diversity, controlling the population of insects and acting as scavengers,” said Deuti.

Pal said he was lucky that experts like Ohlar has shown interest in his findings.

“I worked for nights under torch light in Chilapata forest. I hope to learn more in the company of the professor and other scientists,” said Pal.

Tomorrow, S.K. Dutta, a herpetologist from Orissa, and Pranobesh Sanyal, a former principal chief conservator of forest, will join Ohlar and her group.

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