#FridayFrogFact – First Ever ‘Batracharium’ in India

Batrachology is the study of amphibians (caecilians, newts, salamanders, frogs and toads). It is a subdivision of Herpetology (meaning: the branch of zoology concerned with reptiles and amphibians- collectively referred to as herptiles). ‘Herp’ finds its roots in the ancient Greek language- derived from a word- herpeton meaning ‘creepy animals’. ‘Herping’ is a common term used by ‘herpers’ (people with avid interest in Herpetology and herptiles) to describe the act of searching for herptiles. There’s a common joke that does the herpetology rounds-  if it slithers around on its belly, a herper will probably know what it is 😉 Modern biologists say that the term Herpetology needs a review since amphibians and reptiles are two groups of animals with quite different life histories. Batrachology too finds its roots in the ancient Greek language- the word is derived from ‘Batrachos’ meaning frogs.

An elegant dancing frog posses for my camera
An elegant dancing frog posses for my camera

A Batracharium (Batrachos+arium), similar to an aquarium, is a place reserved for frogs. Simply put, an aquarium is a place for aquatic animals while a Batracharium is a place for frogs. The suffix -arium (Latin), which indicates ‘a place for’ or ‘associated with’, is intelligently used in this case for frogs. This is a novel concept is given by Dr Gururaja. He is a globally renowned Batrachologist based out of Bengaluru and one of the pioneers of frog conservation in India. This frog space is technically nothing but an area dedicated to conservation of frogs, in other words a Frog Sanctuary.  

The first Batracharium in India has already been thrown open to the public in Vivanta by Taj in Madikeri, Coorg. This luxury resort spans around 180 acres of montane rainforest of the Western Ghats. Taj allows its guests to experience the untamed natural environments. Mr Arun Achappa, a gentleman who dons several hats- hotelier, naturalist, engineer and landscape manager- came up with an idea of contributing to the environment around him. He learnt about Dr Gururaja and the plan for a frog conservation center at Taj was born. Without any delay, surveys were carried out in the monsoons by a team of naturalists and researchers. More than 30 species of frogs were observed and recorded. The list includes many of the endemic frogs like the dancing frogs, bush frogs and night frogs. Read more about these frogs – here and here.

What do Batrachariums do? They:

  • Spread awareness about the utility and beauty of amphibians
  • Allow visitors to observe these wonderful little creatures in their natural habitats
  • Are self-sustainable as responsible tourism generates revenues!
  • Allow tourists, herpers, nature enthusiasts visiting to donate, fundraise and volunteer!

BRILLIANT, I say 🙂 So many uses stemming from one simple activity!

Picture by Mr Arun Achappa
Picture by Mr Arun Achappa

How exactly does one go about building a Batracharium?

  • A known pond, stream or man-made water body with frogs is demarcated. Pointers are put up to highlight the areas where frogs are found.
  • At these areas, information regarding the frogs found there is displayed prominently on boards and hoardings- including the scientific name, the common name, a photograph, its habitat and a two line description. Also warnings are put up guiding people on how to ethically watch the frogs without harming the habitat there.
  • The Batracharium is now thrown open to visitors and locals.
  • This facilitates knowledge exchange and helps spread awareness among both visitors and locals. Not to mention the pure joy one gets from observing these lovely croakies!

Vivanta’s Batracharium is an outstanding initiative to bring about awareness concerning these fragile bio-indicator species. Travellers and tourists from all over the world not only enjoy the luxury of Vivanta but also exchange knowledge, observe natural habitats and most importantly learn to live sustainably. Perhaps this Batracharium in a luxury resort is the first of it’s kind in the entire world! It is indeed sending out a strong message to all – this planet belongs not only to human beings but also to many other wonderful creatures. Biodiversity is the beauty of our planet and man is a but one part of this vast ecosystem. Being responsible towards our choices, living sustainably, taking the right step for our unique habitable planet and compassion towards other animals is our only future!

The untamed natural landscape outside my room!
The untamed natural landscape outside my room!

Mr Arun’s passion to give back to nature led Taj Vivanta to build this amazing frog conservation center- the first of its kind in India! We all can take inspiration from this and give back in our own little ways. How exactly – you may ask? If you really want to take a step towards helping these cute lil’ croakies, we could build a small batracharium together! If you live near a frog habitat or know of a frog habitat which you think needs attention, get in touch with me and we can discuss how we can take this ahead 🙂

PS: This article wouldn’t have been possible without valuable inputs from Dr Gururaja and Mr Archit; thanks for all the love and support!

PPS: Stay tuned for more such amazing frog posts- we post every Friday!
If you have missed any of the previous #FridayFrogFact posts – read them all over here!

If you liked this article, join our growing community of amazing froggers on Facebook.

Also fill out this form and tell me what would you like to read in the next post. Don’t forget to follow Not-Just-Frogs campaign with Roots and Shoots by Dr Jane Goodall – here.

Now go and croak it out (read share this article) to the entire world on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

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#FridayFrogFact – Wayanad Night Frog (Nyctibatrachus grandis)

Last week we discussed nature’s potter – a sombre colored night frog. It’s unique and brilliant pottery skills were mind blowing not only for us but for the biologists as well. If you haven’t read about it- click here NOW.

This week’s focus is on another night frog (genus Nyctibatrachus). I just cannot get over their rhomboidal shaped pupils. Look deep into those eyes – am sure you will be mesmerized as well! It’s an optical illusion of a different kind – one that isn’t available on the internet yet, only to be found in nature!


OMG, which side up?

Picture by my friend – Shrikanth Nayak

These unique night frogs occupy streams, puddles, waterfalls and adjoining rocky areas in the luxuriant forests of the Western Ghats. Among the 28 known species of night frogs; Wayanad Night Frog (Nyctibatrachus grandis) is the biggest. It isn’t surprising that taxonomists call it ‘grand’. The frog’s size ranges from 6.2 centimeters to 7.6 centimeters. Whereas other members in the genus of rhombus-eyed frogs can be as small as 1.3 centimeters.

My naturalist friend told me stories of this grand frog as we explored the freshwater streams of Coorg. He said, he will show me a frog that literally ‘honks’! Yes, I didn’t believe him either. But after I heard the call, I’m quite sure that the inspiration for those tuk-tuk horns probably came from here –  

(This audio clip is from Mandookavani – an acoustic guide to the frogs and toads of the Western Ghats)

I think the call goes well with it’s aggressive nature – if a male frog is seen guarding a clutch of eggs; don’t dare to go close. Also almost never try touching it. The male frog will jump straight at you to bite your finger!

More Information:


My naturalist friend (Shrikanth) and I were really lucky to see a mating pair of this grand frog species in Kodagu (Coorg). He filmed a beautiful video while giving them their privacy! I will be sharing the video in the coming week. Keep watching this space 🙂

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#FridayFrogFact – Kumbara Night Frog (Nyctibatrachus kumbara)

Until 2011, only 15 species of night frogs (frogs belonging to the Nyctibatrachus genus) had been discovered in India. A paper by SD Biju and team uncovered 12 more, taking the count to 27. Today there are 28 known species, with Kumbara Night Frog; the latest addition to this list. These night frogs live in the freshwater streams of mountains throughout the Western Ghats. In other words, they are found only in the Ghats and nowhere else in the world- this is why they are called ‘endemic’ to the Western Ghats. Today I am talking about one of these unique night frogs – the Kumbara Night Frog. Kumbara (in Kannada) or Kumbhara/Kumhara (in Devanagari) literally translates to a ‘potter’.

Mating night frogs! Picture by Dr Gururaja KV
Mating night frogs! Picture by Dr Gururaja KV

After numerous surveys and tremendous effort, a team of scientists led by Dr Gururaja has observed something extraordinary in this frog’s mating behaviour. Post courtship, the male frog of this species stands on its tiny hind limbs, then using its forelimbs it packs the newly laid clutch of eggs with fine mud from the bottom of the stream. The team members’ minds were blown away at this completely new discovery in the frog world. Researchers spent hours on end recording this obscure nature’s ‘potter’ and later appropriately named it such! This amazing behavioural trait (hitherto unknown) was observed from 2006 to 2012 at Kathalekan, near Jog falls in the Uttara Kannada region of Karnataka. The team published their findings in an international journal called ‘Zootaxa’ in May 2014 – sharing their fascinating discovery with the global scientific community.

More information –



More Videos –




PS: Today we know about these incredible frogs because of the excellent scientific discoveries by teams of scientists studying and observing them day and night. Stellar scientific discoveries by passionate scientists like Dr Gururaja KV and Dr SD Biju have taken us to a wholly deeper level of understanding in this fascinating world of frogs!

More fun, mind-blowing facts next week. Stay tuned  🙂

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Why I love Frogs And Why You Should Too!

A beautiful froglet of endangered Rhacophorus lateralis. (Clicked by Shrikanth Nayak; naturalist in Bagh Villas, Kanha.)
A beautiful froglet of endangered Rhacophorus lateralis. (Clicked by Shrikanth Nayak; naturalist in Bagh Villas, Kanha)

Often when I tell people that I love frogs, one the most important question that they ask me is “Why do these ugly frogs fascinate you? What’s in them?” So to answer this FAQ, I have made a list of fascinating facts about these croaking knights.

I am sure these will not fail to impress even the most unexcitable amongst you:

1. Bioindicators- The word ‘bioindicator’ literally means a creature that tells you something about the environment. Did you know that frogs breathe through their skin? Fascinating- ain’t it! Scientists over the years have explained that frogs and amphibians are good bioindicators because they are affected by the natural environment. Their skin is highly permeable and any change in the quality of air or water will directly or indirectly affect their existence. Sudden increase or decrease in the population of frogs can speak a lot about the environment that we live in.

Watch this video to know more –

2. Hate creepy crawlies? Love frogs- Most frogs feed on little invertebrates on the land and in the water. They play a major role in controlling the population of pests. Frogs will feed on mosquito larvae thus keeping the environment clean and preventing many deadly diseases. This could be most people’s personal favorite reason to love frogs 😀

Take a look at this mind-boggling poster released by Vancouver Aquarium to show you what the world without frogs would look like –



3. Two lives specialist- Amphibians are specialized creatures that live in the water and on the land. Alfred Sherwood Romer quotes- “The amphibian is.. in many respects, little more than a peculiar type of fish which is capable of walking on land.” Frogs spend one-half of their life in water being tadpoles and other half on land or trees. There are indeed frogs that are fully aquatic but would still spend time at the edges of the pools (half immersed) instead of fully being in the water, unlike any fish.

An adult frog with a tail!
Almost adult night frog (with a tail) chills on a wet rock surface by a small puddle in Coorg, India!

4. Breathing through the largest organ- Just like human beings, frogs have skin, bones, muscles and in-cavity organs. In the early nineteenth century, a number of scientists studied the frog’s respiratory system and found out that frogs could stay alive in the absence of lungs for more than a month! Skin is the largest organ in the body and frogs rely to a great extent on cutaneous (through skin) respiration. This explains why the frog’s skin is highly permeable to water and air, although the only constraint being it must be kept moist at all times.

Such beautiful and photogenic creatures clicked by Dr Gururaja
A group of Rhacophorus lateralis clicked by Dr Gururaja. Aren’t they innocently photogenic?

5. Clean drinking water- Excessive algae blooms have been a major cause for the destruction of fresh water bodies. Most tadpoles and frogs feed on algae that grow in the water bodies. Thus they help in maintaining the oxygen levels of the water. They form a part of natural filtration system in the freshwater ponds. You might also like to know that they are never found in salty water or in the sea!

This tiny rests on the rock overflowing a stream
This tiny croaker (Micrixalus Saxicola) rests on the rock adjoining an overflowing water stream in the Western Ghats of India

6. Eggs so weird- Frogs lay their eggs in water or on very damp surfaces. Their eggs are unlike any other reptile or bird eggs – they are not covered by hard shells. Frog eggs are little squishy bundles made of a jelly like matter that protects the growing embryo. Most amphibians use external fertilization (the female lays eggs first and the male fertilizes it later). This again explains the need for damp surfaces and requirement of fresh water for their survival.

A male Nyctibatrachus grandis guards it's eggs
This male night frog (Nyctibatrachus grandis) sits alert to guard his egg clutch!

7. Psychedelic calls- ‘The sound, which the scientific books describe as “croaking,” floats far and wide, and produces a beautiful, mysterious effect on a still evening’ – W. H. Hudson (1919). You might have heard continuous trrrr-trrrr-trrrr during damp, dark nights in your backyard. Have you ever wondered how these little beasts call all night? Well, the answer lies in their wonderful and functional three-unit “noise-production-system” inside their body cavities. This system consists of trunk muscles, larynx and vocal sacs. Trunk muscles give power, larynx helps in the production of the sound, and the buccal cavity and vocal sacs together transmit the sound to long distances. Sounds are either produced for attracting mates or for dominating other males in the area.

This clip by Ramit Singal tells you how interesting the music can get –

8. Highly intelligent- These tiny wonders are extremely intelligent. They are smart enough to manipulate their sounds and signals according to different needs. Some frog species, considering the habitat they live in (torrential streams), call at different pitches and manipulate their frequencies.
The ones living near heavy flowing rivers might give “click” sounds with long breaks to stand apart from the continuous background sounds. And there are frogs that have evolved to give ‘visual signals’ to convey their message. Foot-flagging is one such visual signal. The genus Micrixalus (endemic to India) is popular for their foot-flagging signals. They are popularly nicknamed Dancing Frogs. There are about twenty-four known species of Dancing Frogs in India.

This video by Dr Gururaja shows how a frog dances –

These are only but a few facts that I have listed due to time and space constraints. If I sit back and start to mention each hard-to-believe fact of these slimy creatures, I could write an entire 100-page magazine dedicated to frogs. Now I’m sure you understand – why I’m crazily in love with frogs <3

I would also like to tell you, that I am starting Part 1 of my campaign #NotJustFrogs in India. All you have to do is click pictures of frogs (add date and location) and share them with me using the hashtag on Instagram and Twitter.

You could also join this facebook group!

Also, if you would like to take one more step towards saving frogs then click on the link below. You will be asked to make your profile and then you can show your support towards my project with Roots&Shoots by Dr Jane Goodall.


Don’t forget to tell me your reasons to love (or hate?) frogs in the comments below 🙂 

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How I Met My ‘Courage’

‘Courage’ the little frog sat comfortably across this fast flowing stream. It looked as if he had made friends with the stream and her fast flowing water. The very strong wavy water was trying to protect it from predators.


The rocks neighboring the water made it even more difficult to reach the frog. As soon as I stepped in the stream the water flow increased and the waves stopped me from getting close to Courage. But I knew I wasn’t supposed to give up. I had to prove to the stream and her friends that I am different. I am not the human being who throws plastic at them and usually comes to destroy them.


I am going to observe this frog and help conserve him. So I put my foot down and went ahead. While I played with the fast flowing waves, another Whistling friend joined in. Thrush, the bird, occupied the canopy above me and watched all the drama below. He looked at me like “Oh just another creepy human being”. But wait, there’s more to me, I thought as I struggled to keep my foot down in the waves.

Look at the frog

The rocks had decided to stop me as well. They turned slippery and asked moss to cover them. I knew, these are not inanimate objects that we look upon them as. They are in fact the beloved children of Mother Earth, live creatures in themselves. All these life forces come together to make a brilliant cradle for the survival of human beings. In return it is our duty to give back, as much as we can.


As my mind recited these thoughts, Mother Nature seemed to guess this already. She calmed down a little, after a good twenty minutes of my struggle through the rocks and waves. I had reached where Courage was. He posed for me and said ribbit-ribbit. Two more frogs jumped in and these I decided to call- Moxie and Energy!

Mr Courage

As I got out of the stream, I felt super happy. All the adrenaline rush and this new bond of frogship felt really wonderful. I was on top of the world. When I first decided to cross the stream, I was afraid. But as I gathered my courage and decided to take this path, I made friends on the way. These friends might not be able to party, wish me birthday or Whatsapp me, but they will always be there. Having them as companions, I realized, I don’t need anyone else!

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Frogs Of Hampi: You Must Check Them Out During Your Visit To The Heritage Town!

Hampi, a UNESCO heritage site is not only rich in its heritage but also unique in its wildlife. The town is slightly touristy and has numerous temples which makes it a very famous tourist spot. In my search to find lesser known places, I ended up staying in the north of Hampi (across the Tungabhadra River) in Sanapur. Sanapur has pristine, undisturbed habitats which are a home for numerous frogs, birds and reptiles. Especially in the rainy season, the paddy fields, adjoining granite monoliths and the mud houses of farmers become a paradise for frogs and toads to breed. If you happen to be in Hampi, anytime during the months of June to September, you will definitely get to see a number of frogs here-

I am in love with these paddyfields, just outside my homestay!
I am in love with these paddyfields, just outside my homestay!

Here are all the frogs that I saw during my visit to Hampi-

The Sri Lankan Painted Frog (Kaloula taprobanica)

This colorful and distinctive frog is about 5 to 6 cms in length. It is stocky with short legs. It is possible to come across this frog in moist places, smaller puddles and near fields. Occasionally, it is possible to find this in your courtyard or your bathroom.

I found him jump below my hammock when I was reading a book in dim light very close to paddyfields at Rambo Homestay

This colorful frog is such a poser!
This colorful frog is such a poser!

Variegata Ramanella (Ramanella variegata)

This frog looks like a tiny birthday balloon with its distinctive fine yellow spots. I am not sure what this loner was doing in my bathroom. But it probably swum through the sewer opening, jumped through the door or was just planning to say “hi” to me. Did you know that this frog has a very large distribution and if you are observant enough, you might just find it in almost any damp places, protected forests, rivers, fields, etc. There are eight species of Ramanella out of which six appear in peninsular India.

Tiny, spotted beauty in your bathroom!
Tiny, spotted beauty in my bathroom!

Common Indian Toad (Duttaphrynus melanostictus)

The toad has to make it to my list wherever I go in India. They can be found almost everywhere, a toad, could most likely be. In monsoons, a walk around your own home in a sparkling city can reveal at least one toad. These are super easy to identify- just look for a “V” above the snout with warty skin and dull color.

That “V” = Common Indian Toad

Common Indian Tree Frog (Polypedates maculatus)

This is apparently a very common frog. It is possible to find one almost anywhere and everywhere, given its distinctive call. It is distributed throughout India as per resources. My frog expert friends tell me- “You should know where to look for this frog”. It lives in the trees and shrubs about 3 to 4 feet above the ground. Occasionally, it climbs down on rocks near puddles and fields and you might be lucky like me to find one.

Chilling on the rock!
Chilling on the rock!

Burrowing frog (Sphaerotheca species)

I came across this species of frog while taking a night stroll. The tiny frogs of this genus have a specialized digging apparatus on their feet. A really funny incident happened when I spotted this one. I was walking on the road and the frog jumped over someone’s feet who was pissing by the side. I am sure I weirded out this man but still managed clicking this one awkward shot in all the smelly area. So now you know where to get this digging frog!

Little digging frog
Little digging frog.

I love these little, slimy creatures. How about you- have you visited Hampi yet?

If not, pack your bags this monsoon for the much needed weekend break and stay at my favorite Homestay to see all the frogs in one go! 

PS: Heartfelt thanks to all my wonderful frog loving friends who helped me with the frog identities and information. For more check the inspiration section!

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7 Awesome Reasons To Attend The 7 Day PRiMER Course By Gubbi Lab

I am in love with this classroom. The first of its kind where I chose to sit inside rather than standing outside or being absent! ;)
I am in love with this classroom. The first of its kind where I chose to sit inside rather than standing outside or being absent! 😉

To get a chance to study in this brilliant classroom- This Eco-classroom is to die for. The simple classroom ambiance consists of limited chairs, walls made of mud with the natural amber paint, bamboo pillars with hay ceiling and one projector screen for convenience and ease of learning. All this makes a different environment to study in, while providing the much needed natural cooling and light. Who wouldn’t fall in love with studies here?

Tall coconut and beetle-nut trees make a peaceful outdoors. Most times a flame-back woodpecker called out loud to claim that the heights belonged to him and his flaming female!

To realize you need no “Techie”- Getting to learn the intelligent QGIS, R, PAST softwares step-by-step is an incredible experience. The patience of teaching these skills to everyone coming from diverse backgrounds is an art that the expert teachers from Gubbi Labs have mastered over years. Not only do they teach you the principles behind the data analytics- they also hand hold you through the demo of the software and most importantly- they open your minds to the varied usages of data in ecological and other researches!

Trying to figure out lat-long on a mobile app!
Trying to figure out lat-long on a mobile app!
We’re getting there- to the statistics and much more inside the classroom
We’re getting there- to the statistics and much more inside the classroom

To experience the wonders of an Eco-Toilet- Woah, what? Yes, a brilliant concept of eco-toilet was fascinating for me. It doesn’t mean “In-The-Open”. Eco-toilets have a long history and the concept came from Paul Calvert of EcoSolutions. Sudhira and others of Gubbi Labs realized, at Gubbi Field Station they needed a solution to prevent sewage from entering the fresh water owing to the area’s high water table and the conventional septic tank wasn’t appropriate. With some time spent on google and other secondary research they came up with this brilliant solution to preserve fresh water, stop spread of diseases and maintain hygiene!

Walk that stairway to reach the Eco-toilet!
Walk that stairway to reach the Eco-toilet!
Look at this incredible wash-basin design, who needs the luxury of a glass bowl anyway! ;)
Look at this incredible wash-basin design, who needs the luxury of a glass bowl anyway! 😉

For Gurujee Time- Dr Gururaja KV, a very humble man studying frogs of India and the Western Ghats is a well known Batrachologist. He needs no introduction. Filled with enthusiasm and vigor, he supports students wanting to work in Ecology and gives important insights to their work. He believes “any research is an important one”. Sadly, I haven’t met too many scientists with the same beliefs. Don’t forget to check out this brilliant frog app by him! And read more about him- here

Gurujee takes outdoor classes for his beloved students!
Gurujee takes outdoor classes for his beloved students!

For Frogging, Birding, Lorising and much more- The course is filled with interesting field sessions sometimes with real frogs and sometimes with rubber ones- both packed with their own cuteness! The backyard of the classroom is a home for many endemic birds like Grey francolins, White-browed bulbuls and Short-toed snake eagles. These sessions are awesome to rejuvenate you while the experts from Gubbi add that missing piece with their helpful insights.

Gurujee has a whole lot of toy frogs (which resemble and feel like the living frogs) for you to experience it hands on. You do not want to mess up with the real frogs. This red frog-head is my favorite among others. Isn’t that filled with “Aww!” :)
Gurujee has a whole lot of toy frogs (which resemble and feel like the living frogs) for you to experience it hands on. You do not want to mess up with the real frogs. This red frog-head is my favorite among others. Isn’t that filled with “Aww!” 🙂
Measuring the frog’s snout-vent length with a Vernier’s Caliper
Measuring the frog’s snout-vent length with a Vernier’s Caliper

To meet like minded people- It is fun, interesting and wonderful to be in the company of people who can understand and discuss topics that you enjoy the most. Learning from each other’s experiences, getting to know their opinions and most of all discussing research topics that are absurd for many yet seem doable when discussed in depth! This is the power of beautiful people who worship nature, diversity in species and much more!

SAY CHEESE- for an incredible group picture!
SAY CHEESE- for an incredible group picture!

To add a whole new dimension to your research skills: Not only does this course teach you new concepts and new ideas on Ecology but it also teaches you how to apply the same to your data! We all have captured raw data and we do not know what to do with it or even how to make sense of it. So often, we are lost, not knowing which direction to take. It is at this juncture that you will remember the concepts taught to you here at Gubbi. Personally speaking- I am sure I will use the skills I have picked up here to convert the data I have collected into actual meaningful research. And get them published 😉

Look at the field, take a book, read it loud, google it, then google scholar it, collect data, analyze and write a paper! Wow, isn’t that quick?
Look at the field, take a book, read it loud, google it, then google scholar it, collect data, analyze and write a paper! Wow, isn’t that quick?
My certificate after the completion of the course. I’d call it- narcissism in the most subtle way!
My certificate after the completion of the course. I’d call it- narcissism in the most subtle way!

PS: A heart full of thanks to Dr Gururaja, Dr Sudhira, Mrs Ramya and Ms Vidisha for their contribution of photographs and other valuable information in this blog. This amazing experience definitely wouldn’t have happened without their loving support. Get in touch- Gubbi Labs

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