#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!

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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!

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OMG, which side up?

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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:

http://frogsaregreen.org/tag/nyctibatrachus-grandis/

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 –

http://jlrexplore.com/explore/from-the-field/kumbara-night-frog

http://www.amphibians.org/news/a-new-frog-species-that-stands-on-its-head-while-laying-eggs-and-then-carefully-covers-the-eggs-with-mud/

More Videos –

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k0P10Pxsg5w

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GZW9zJsjg4Y

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cyg2fQLwV60

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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