Panaji: Banded Ground Gecko Faces Threat of Extinction

from Ares
Daijiworld Media Network - Panaji (SP)

Panaji, Jul 21: Environmentalists have warned that Banded Ground Gecko, a species of lizard endemic to Sahyadri hills, is facing a grave threat of being endangered with urgent efforts needed to safeguard its habitat.

"The human invasion in the Sahyadri hills along with the lethargy of Goa government officials to ensure that such species are well protected, has pushed them to the brink of being endangered," renowned environmentalist Rajendra Kerkar contended.

The environmentalists who are conducting various studies on Sahyadri hill ranges, which dot the Goa border, have claimed this species, as 'lesser known marvel of Goan Sahyadris.'

"There is thus a need for a serious attempt to collate data on the same and create awareness of these lesser known marvels of the Goan Sahyadris, many of which like the banded ground gecko go unnoticed as far as the laymen are concerned," researcher Nirmal Kulkarni opined. Records have indicated that the Banded Ground Gecko (Geckoella albofasciata) is an endemic species of the gecko, which has been documented from certain areas in the Mahdei Wildlife Sanctuary in North Goa. 

"Earlier records about this species exist at Bhagvan Mahaveer Wildlife sanctuary and Mollem national park in South Goa and Amboli in Maharashtra," Kulkarni said.

The Mahdei Wildlife sanctuary is known for its diversity of herpetofauna and the Mahdei Bachao Abhiyaan (MBA) is attempting to prepare a checklist of the same with the help of its members and researchers.

The MBA, which was formed in the nineties to put up a front against Karnataka government's efforts to build a dam across Mahdei river, has also diversified into a cause of creating environmental awareness with special thrust on the forest adjoining the state border.

Several other organizations including Vivekanand Environment Awareness Brigade have joined the cause, giving a fillip to the entire gamut of environment awareness campaigns that are run to save the Western Ghats from being ruined.

Kulkarni, a young researcher, who is also an integral part of this environmental brigade, had documented the species of banded ground gecko during his forays into the wilderness of this rich bio-diverse region of the Goan Sahyadris.
"The Banded Ground Gecko is ground dwelling terrestrial gecko and has been documented on the leaf litters of the forest land. Nocturnal in nature, some specimens have been sighted at dusk on earth cuttings and mud crevices in these parts," Kulkarni narrated.

While the banded ground gecko is distinguished in the field by its conspicuous yellow broad bands on the back and the heterogeneous pattern of the scales on the body, taxonomic identification of this species is done with the help of scale counts of the body, head and feet.

He said, that this species has so far been documented in the Mahdei wildlife sanctuary at altitudes ranging from 550 meters to 800 meters above sea level in varied habitats, including village settlements, cashew and acacia plantations and also dense mixed moist deciduous and semi evergreen forests, the last of which are its actual niche habitats.

"Insectivorous in nature in its feeding habits, the Banded Ground Gecko has been observed feeding on nocturnal moths and ants on the forest floor at night and is agile when alerted or alarmed," he added.

The environmentalists explain, that the current threats documented for this species include human induced forest fires and alteration of niche habitats in certain areas of its existence.

Kulkarni adds: Belonging to the Genus Geckoella, the closest resembling species of the Banded Ground Gecko is the Deccan Ground Gecko, which is found in the forests of Bhimashankar Wildlife sanctuary, Phansad Wildlife sanctuary and other forests of Maharashtra.

The documentation of this species in the Mahdei Wildlife sanctuary has once again proved the rich diversity of the region.

Kulkarni said that there is a lacuna of our knowledge of the lizards of Goa, especially of the forest species and the existing checklists are either incomplete or based on mere observations by laymen and have not been catalogued in a scientific manner. 

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