Do you miss frog croaks during monsoon season? Well, you can blame the road accidents for their absence. Many wild animals fall prey to road-kills but the worst hit among them are those creatures that move slowly.
An expert revealed on Earth Day about how some common reptiles and amphibians are becoming victims of road accident. The human made constructions of the highways are cutting through their habitats, which is a cause of concern.
A unique experiment was carried out in the "Steel City" of Durgapur in West Bengal. During the 27-day study period on a cumulative stretch of 94.5 km road, researchers found that common Indian toad, Greater Balloon frog, Indian bull frog and garden lizards and geckos are becoming the key victims of road accidents.
"A total of 354 amphibians and 133 reptiles were killed over the 27-day long survey period on a cumulative stretch of 94.5 km road," conservationist Sachinandan Dutta told a news agency.
"Usually these cold blooded animals are sluggish in their movement and prefer to bask in warmth of the metalled roads, especially, when such surfaces are available," explained Dutta, currently a National Post-Doctoral Fellow, Department of Zoology, Calcutta University.
Durgapur comprises a large human population (0.5 million approximately) as it is opne of the important planned cities in India. A number of metalled roads pierce through different habitats across the city.
The industrial town is home to cultivable agricultural land and 97 small and 57 heavy engineering and manufacturing establishments.
"The stretch of road under survey passed through different habitat patches like agricultural land, human habitation, dumping area, fragmented forest and wetland. On an average, 18 herpetofauna (reptiles and amphibians of a particular region) were noted to be killed daily," Dutta said about the study published in the Russian Journal of Ecology and co-authored by Himanish Prasad Jana, Subhajit Saha and Subhra Kumar Mukhopadhyay.
He said that policy makers, politicians, masses as well as the media majorly pay attention to big animals like tigers and elephants. But, thousands of amphibians and reptiles which are crushed to death on the roads are never highlighted.
"We have only 382 amphibian and 456 reptilian species in India (IUCN, 2015) of which 21 amphibian species and seven reptilian species are critically endangered (as per environment ministry 2011 data). Many of these will become extinct in the next two decades," he said.
These animals also contribute to economy in terms of production of snake venom antivenin or different medicines from amphibian skins.
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"Only a few species are used for such purposes while reptiles and amphibians are vanishing fast. It is high-time that we try to create awareness regarding the so-called insignificant creatures in the food-web; without the well being of such smaller fauna, larger fauna can't thrive properly," said Dutta.
Dutta voiced for restricting habitat destruction apart from batting for putting road signs at vantage points, especially close to wetlands and forested areas, where the likelihood of amphibians and reptiles crossing the roads is more.
"Drivers should be trained to pay heed to these smaller life forms at the vulnerable crossing sites," he added.