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18 Oct 2019, Edition - 1557, Friday

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Coimbatore

Anaikatti’s geckos inching towards extinction

Ajay Menon

The gecko – a type of lizard – endemic to the Anaikatti hills, is under threat of extinction. A recent workshop in Coimbatore, while assessing the status of different reptiles that have been on the IUCN Red List in South Asia, found that urgent steps need to be taken to protect and conserve the Anaikatti gecko.

The Anaikatti hills close to Coimbatore is home to the gecko (Cnemaspis anaikattiensis), a type of lizard that is facing a serious threat of extinction.

Recently the Conservation Planning Specialist Group (CPSG) South Asia held a workshop in Coimbatore to look at the more than 500 reptile species across the vast area in which 50 of them faced threats and found their way into the Red List of the global authority, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), conversationist Sanjay Molur told The Covai Post.

Among those in the red list is the Gekkonidae, a member of the gecko family, which, according to studies, diverged some 65 million years ago around the time that dinosaurs went extinct.
The pushing of these geckos into the red list is indicated in surveys carried during the early part of the century when there were around 250 mature geckos in Anaikatti up to 2005. But a recent survey found just seven of them and and follow-up done after six months found none. This is really a serious matter.

About the workshop, Sanjay said it looked generally at the status, national distribution, habitats and threats to all these reptiles. Coming to the gecko in Anaikatti, he said scientists were given details of the methodology for formulating the IUCN red list. It looked at how to formulate action to be taken and the plans that needed to be in place. He said no specific action was formulated for the gecko as it would take time based on further studies about the action plan.

The CPSG South Asia was formed in 1999. The CPSG India chapter had started eight years ago in 1991, which was a base model for the organisation’s networks the world over. The organisation basically looks at expanding the scope of its mission by promoting its policies, philosophy, processes and products across South Asia.

It also looks at highlighting the link between zoo and field-based activities in conservation and promoting the scientific methods of holistic, intensive, interactive conservation management in the region and hold workshops and create a regional conservation identity by bringing together conservation specialists.

According to experts The Covai Post contacted, the main threat to this species is loss of habitat, mainly due to shrinking of forest cover and the resultant conversion of the habitat. Besides, water-logged areas which are vital micro-habitats for this specie, are shrinking and local forest fires are a serious threat too.

Unfortunately, there is still no species-specific conservation action plan in the area which needs to be declared a protected zone. The experts felt more research and study into the ecology were required and conservation norms and rules must be in place in order to conserve these geckos.

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