This blog was written by Chris Bednarski, a member of the Houston Zoo’s Herpetology Department. Chris received a Staff Conservation Fund grant from his coworkers at the Houston Zoo to carry out a wildlife-saving project for reptiles and amphibians in the Western Ghats region of India. We will be posting a series of blogs as Chris documents his work overseas.
Chris’s goal is to survey within a section of land purchased by the Tillari Biodiversity Research Trust and document what species are present, as well as discover new species and note their home ranges. These findings will help to strengthen the need to protect this land, and by protecting this land, we save species in the wild!
So today we got to visit a property we have never had access to, which I was very excited about. A friend of a friend we stopped to get chai from told us he knew someone that wanted us to come to his property and tell him what kind of animals he had running around. Our chai friend assured us his buddy was a good guy and had heard about our project. Regardless to whether we found a bunch of animals on this property or not this was an important day for us. Much like the Houston Zoo does for the Houston toad, we want to work on land owner agreements. What we would like is to have a 33-year lease on the property, with the land owner agreeing to not destroy any more land and to not use any harmful pesticides.
We arrived at our new friend’s house, and in true Indian fashion we quickly sat down for a nice conversation and chai. After this, he took us around his banana and pineapple groves, eventually leading us to the untouched portion of the property. He told us about all of the snakes he has seen here including what he believes to be a king cobra. On our tour we noted a few species of frog that do fairly well in disturbed areas, like the Indian tree frog (Polypedates maculatus). We found an adorable 3 inch long Roux’s forest lizard (Calotes rouxii) hanging out on a leaf and one Travancore wolf snake (Lycodon travancoricus). This certainly wasn’t one of our more productive nights as far as a species list goes, but we did make a new friend and a possible property to add to our conservation agreement! This is one huge step to conserving the land and the species that use it!