Identifying Areas of High Herpetological Diversity
in the Western Ghats, Southwestern India
The Western Ghats of southwestern India (in green), showing hill ranges (>1,000 m) in black, and often-intervening lowlands (3001,000 m) in red.
Department of Biology,
Universiti Brunei Darussalam,
Gadong, Bandar Seri Begawan 2028,
Current address: Institute of Biodiversity
and Environmental Conservation (IBEC),
Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (UNIMAS),
94300 Kota Samarahan, Sarawak, Malaysia
ABSTRACT: The Western Ghat forests in southwestern India harbour the last intact tropical rainforest in peninsular India. Species diversity and endemicity are high and the region is biogeographically closer to Sri Lanka than to continental Asia. An analysis of the distribution pattern reveals that many species are localised; however, the distribution and diversity of the regions herpetofauna is highly heterogenous over the Western Ghats. Human pressures on these forests, including logging, agriculture, and settlements are considerable, and vast tracts of once-contiguous forest have been lost.
To detect areas of high diversity and endemicity within the Western Ghats, data are being collected from the literature, museum records, and by recent field work. Many key areas identified presently receive minimal legal protection, lying within Reserve Forests (the lowest category of forest-land protection in India) or even as fragments within tea, coffee, and cardamom estates. This paper presents a strategy for identifying the remaining pockets of high herpetological diversity within the Western Ghats and recommends measures for their protection.