Tiger toads of the Sahyadris
Two unique amphibians found nowhere else in the world are gradually losing their only homes due to rampant developmental and human activities within their restricted ranges.
The forested hills of the northern Western Ghats, closer to the southern border of Maharashtra, are home to two unique toads—the Amboli toad and the Koyna toad—that are found nowhere else in the world. These brightly coloured amphibians make a seasonal appearance during the monsoon and remain in hibernation for the rest of the year. Their limited distribution range and the increasing human disturbance in this area have endangered the survival of these toads in the distant future.
Both species display a cryptic brown and yellow colouration, but the males have a bright yellow tone, marked with light to dark brown stripes, during the breeding period. The stripes are especially prominent in the Amboli toad (Xanthophryne tigerina), earning it the nickname ‘tiger toad’. Females, as is the case with most amphibians, are larger and carry the male partners around during amplexus. In both species (like in almost all frogs and toads), the males attract the females by calling but will hop on to other females which are already attached to a male, to try and dislodge them. While breeding has never been properly documented in the Koyna toad (Xanthophryne koynayensis), the Amboli toad lays eggs in temporary rain pools formed on laterite rocks.
The Koyna toad is known to occur only in two localities, one in the Koyna Wildlife Sanctuary and other near Amboli in southern Maharashtra. The total range distribution is less than 5,000km2, but there is a large gap between the two localities. Also, both the populations are severely fragmented, especially due to agriculture and alteration of water bodies, as well as logging. While the Koyna population occurs inside a protected area, this sanctuary is subjected to severe encroachment from surrounding villages. The other population occurs outside any protected area. The toad has become increasingly uncommon, indicating that the population might be declining. Thus it has been listed as an Endangered species by IUCN.
The Amboli toad is found at just one location, its type locality (from where the species was described). The figures for this toad are even more staggering. The total area of range distribution is less than 100km2, but the actual area of occurrence within this is smaller than 10km2. The Amboli toad is also threatened by agriculture and deforestation, in addition to rampant development happening in the village, as Amboli is a tourist spot. Once again, the population has been documented to be on the decline. All this has resulted in the Amboli toad being classified as a Critically Endangered species on the IUCN Red List.
A severe lacuna in the information about these two toads has impeded is the creation of any conservation action plan for the protection of these toads. Hopefully, this will change in the near future and this unique lineage of toads will survive the onslaught of human activities.
Cover Photo: A mating pair of the Amboli toad | Photo: Varun Satose
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