Guwahati:  At least 55 species of herpetofauna, comprising 20 amphibian species and 35 reptile species, have been recorded in a recent survey conducted in the Greater Indo-Bhutan Manas landscape.

The Indo-Bhutan Manas landscape is one the world’s single largest protected area landscapes and is known for its diverse assemblage of flora and fauna.

According to a preliminary survey, some species recorded include green tree frog, bubble nest frog, twin spotted tree frog, blue fan-throated lizard, water monitor lizard, king cobra and pope’s pit viper, noted herpetologist Abhijeet Das of the Wildlife Trust of India, who led the survey’s technical team, said.

The survey was part of a trans-boundary conservation initiative funded and led by the Park authorities of Manas National Park, India and Royal Manas National Park, Bhutan.

Most of the herpetofaunal species recorded from Royal  Manas National Park, Bhutan are new country records for the neighbouring country with some of the species found being of utmost scientific interest, he said.

The Manas National Park in India is found to hold an admixture of Indian, Indo-Malayan and Indo-Chinese elements.

Habitat patches at Lotajhar, Doimari inside Manas National Park were found to be particularly rich in forest species whereas grassland-wetland areas such as Kuribeel under Bansbari Range were identified as critical turtle habitat of the park, Das pointed out.

He emphasised on the need for conducting long term and periodic surveys to have a better understanding of the species richness and ecology, which will eventually contribute to the conservation of this ecologically important group.

Das said the survey was conducted in a diversity of habitats including semi-evergreen forest, moist deciduous forest and Terai-Bhabar grasslands emphasising critical herpetological microhabitats.

In all these habitat sites like forest streams, forest under-storey, rocky areas and water logged areas in the interior of forest were sampled mostly using visual-encounter search and the survey was carried out both during day and night to study the activity pattern of diurnal and nocturnal species.

The other component of this trans-boundary conservation initiative was to train the frontline staff of the Forest Department in both the study locations of Manas National Park and Royal Manas National Park in Bhutan so as to inculcate in them the understanding towards reptile and amphibian conservation in their respective areas.

The rich diversity of mammals and birds of the park has been well documented but there is scanty information on reptiles and amphibians of the park and the survey was undertaken to inventorize hitherto unknown diversity of the species.

Das led the technical team which comprised other researchers from the Wildlife Institute of India, Arya Vidyapeeth College, Gauhati University and NGO Aaranyak along with frontline staff of the various anti-poaching camps in the Park.

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