#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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