Salea in the Palni Hills

Investigator: Dr. Somasundaram
Research colleague: Dr. S. Babu
Funding: Madras Crocodile Bank Trust

Salea anamallayana is a high altitude endemic, arboreal agamid found in the southern Western Ghats. Although the species has a restricted range, the conservation status of the species has not yet been evaluated. In upper Palni hills there are very few large tracts of natural forests, with most forests fragmented into smaller patches by commercial plantations such as Acacia, Eucalyptus and Pine. There is a reported a loss of 25 % of the forest cover in the Palni Hills between 1972 and1980. Despite being a human-dominated landscape, large parts of the high altitude forests, especially in the Upper Palnis remain under-explored landscape in terms of herpetofaunal diversity. This region is thought to be one of the largest distributional range of Salea anamallayana. Although previous studies (Deepak and Vasudevan 2008) estimated higher density of Salea anamallayana in tea plantations of Anamalais, there is no such information from the Upper Palni hills, an area contiguous with the Anamalais but without tea plantations. This project is planned to estimate current population status of this lizard in different land use practices of Palni hills. Such data on population status and habitat will be crucial for the conservation and management of the species. The project is proposed to generate critical baseline data on this under-studied species.

The project field work is presently ongoing in the Upper Palani hills