The Purple Frog
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Thomas and co-author SD Biju, who was part of the team that described the species in , believe continuation of this practice could lead to local extinction. Adults of the species remain underground in burrows for most of the year except for about a two-week period in pre-monsoon season when they come out to breed and lay eggs. Because tadpoles are available for only a small period of time every year before they metamorphose into adults, the communities that eat them consider them a delicacy.
There are about to tribal households in the study area, which is adjacent to the Idukki Wildlife Sanctuary. On an average, the researchers found a household of four people consumes approximately 1, tadpoles — or three kilograms — per season. The harvest season is critical because it coincides with the period when tadpoles are at the advanced stages of development.
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As fewer individuals are recruited back into the population, the harvesting of tadpoles will additionally affect this sex ratio. This may affect the number of breeding frogs in the future, he said. Researchers found that even though the consumption of these tadpoles was common practice in other tribal areas as well, they did not observe the residents in the study area selling the collected tadpoles for a profit. Additionally, they found that some tribal people also eat adult purple frogs.
Since adults emerge from burrows only for two weeks during the year, the researches worry this could reduce the breeding population.
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The researchers say that the purple frog population in the area had already significantly declined based on interviews with locals. The number of tadpoles harvested by community members follows a similar trend, the study says, declining during the five-year study period. Exacerbating the problem, pre-monsoon rainfall was very erratic in and in comparison to previous years.
The researchers also saw a few egg clutches within the study site that had dried up. The marked decline of tadpoles in the study during these two years could possibly be a cumulative effect of both scant precipitation and harvesting, the authors write.
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It is thus imperative to conduct long-term monitoring studies to identify the influence of this direct threat on local purple frog populations, they advise. The authors write that there may be hope for the Indian purple frog. With some sensitization and tribal education, they believe that they can convince communities to stop harvesting these endangered tadpoles. He said that there have also been deaths from people having slipped on these rocks so for those who do engage in the activity, it is a kind of adventure.
The authors suggest that conducting awareness campaigns among tribal and local people could be an important conservation management step for this species. As most tribal people involved in tadpole-harvesting are unemployed youth, an underlying factor could be that they are not engaged elsewhere and look for an easy way to make a living.
In fact, after the consequences of harvesting these endangered tadpoles were explained to them, five families stopped harvesting purple frog tadpoles during the five-year survey, according to Thomas. If the purple frog tadpoles continue to be on the tribal menu as a monsoon delicacy, the local population[s] of these frogs are destined to disappear. Described in , the Indian purple frog is facing heavy threats from habitat loss as its forests are converted to cropland.
For indigenous communities living in and around the forests of Kerala, tadpoles of a rather puffy, purplish frog are a cherished delicacy. The practise of consuming tadpoles has been around for decades but researchers worry that harvesting them any more will soon push the endangered frog to the verge of extinction. It spends much of its time below ground, save the few days when it comes out to mate, after which it disappears into its burrow again.
This elusive frog has tiny eyes, short limbs, a pointed nose and a large body — all adapted to a life underground. Now, a five-year survey — by the scientist who discovered the species has revealed that a single tribal household of four consumes an average of about 1, tadpoles in one monsoon season July to September.
There are to households in the area where the survey was conducted. At this rate of decline, compounded by other factors affecting amphibian survival — like habitat destruction, climate change and fungal infections — this odd creature stands little chance. Its local disappearance in the areas it is over harvested will eventually lead the rare frog to extinction.
Each year, when the pre-monsoon showers hit the forest floor during April and May, male frogs serenade from underneath the soil to lure a female into an elaborate mating ritual. Females exit their burrows and home in on a calling male.
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The female, which is much larger, then carries the male to a breeding site, usually a shaded rocky pool next to a stream fed by rain. She lays her eggs in large clumps, sometimes up to a thousand. Tadpoles that hatch from the eggs join the inundated stream. They cling to vertical rocks and cliffs covered in a thin film of water using their suckling mouthparts. But no matter how hard they cling, tribals have devised a way to catch these tadpoles.
By creating an artificial barrier of rocks and vegetation upstream, they block a part of the stream to reduce water flow and render the tadpoles visible. Then, using a broom, they detach the tadpoles from rocks and collect them in baskets downstream. A tadpole-harvesting event in a tribal settlement area in Kulamaav, Kerala. In the case of Nasikabatrachus , females are extremely rare.