|AHM Ali Reza|
|Ph.D student, Texas Tech University|
|Biogeography and Conservation of Herpetofauna in Bangladesh|
|Species: Amphibians and Reptiles|
|Abstract: Bangladesh is a tropical country situated in Southeast Asia, containing a unique and highly threatened biota. Least understood in terms of research and conservation initiatives is the herpetofauna. According to IUCN Bangladesh (2000), 131 species of reptiles and amphibians have been reported from the country so far, and 112 species (85%) are facing conservation threats of various kinds. About 43% of all herpetofauna have been categorized as 'Data Deficient' which is a category that suggests 'no information available on these species'. Even this high value is likely to be an underestimate, because the Red Book of Threatened Animals of Bangladesh was developed mainly based on partial and outdated information. A number of unreported herpetofauna have been reported (Ahsan and Parvin 2001 and 2004, Reza 2004) since the Red List was produced and many of them are on their way. Hence, this proposed research will provide an updated list of the herpetofauna of Bangladesh, and document their distribution and biogeography. This research will also identify the conservation needs of the herpetofauna of Bangladesh and work towards their long-term survival in the natural habitats by involving local community in conservation.|
Project Update: December 2006
I am working in Bangladesh, a global biodiversity hotspot in tropical Asia which contains a unique and highly threatened biota. Least understood in terms of research and conservation initiatives is the herpetofauna. According to a 2000 estimate by IUCN Bangladesh, 131 species of reptiles and amphibians have been reported from the country so far, and 112 of them (85%) are facing conservation threats. About 43% of amphibian and reptile species were categorized as Data Deficient, indicating lack of even basic information. This high number of threatened and data deficient species is likely to be an underestimate, because the country is poorly studied and the data used to develop the IUCN list were mainly partial or outdated. For example, a number of amphibians and reptile species have been reported from Bangladesh since the Red List was produced, and more are in the process of being added.
The goals of my research included producing an updated list of herpetofauna of Bangladesh, producing a set of GIS-based distribution maps for all of them, and estimating species composition and richness in various habitats. I spent three months, June-August 2006, conducting fieldwork in Bangladesh with a research assistant from Ireland and few graduate students from the Department of Zoology, Jahangirnagar University, Bangladesh. Fieldwork was conducted in summer since amphibians and reptiles are most active during this time of a year. Based on physical and biological factors, as well as logistical concerns, I selected seven permanent sampling sites in different forest types (e.g. evergreen and semi-evergreen forest, mangrove and deciduous forest, swamp forest) and three study sites in the urban and suburban areas of Bangladesh (Table 1).
I used traditional survey techniques (e.g. direct encounter survey, active searching in microhabitats, night survey, etc.) to conduct the survey. In addition, I also used several trapping techniques (e.g. drift fences with pitfall and funnel traps, cover-boards, PVC pipes, minnow traps, hoop nets, etc.) to maximize the catch in the field. In summer 2006, I have recorded the occurrence of 73 species of amphibians and reptiles from Bangladesh, of which 52 species are of particular scientific import (Table 1, below). These preliminary results reveal the presence of at least two previously unreported species of amphibians and three to five species of reptiles in Bangladesh. In addition, I have also documented several new regional distribution records. I am working to produce a complete set of GIS-based distribution maps for all recorded species. The final set of maps will be produced at the end of my third field season in 2008.
Another goal of my work is to assess the species composition and richness of herpetofauna in different habitats in Bangladesh. Based on my first year's field data, preliminary conclusions can be drawn. Lawachara National Park, an evergreen forest, seems to support the highest number of amphibian and reptile species (51 species so far). I also recorded some critically important frogs and skinks from a deciduous forest habitat, Madhupur National Park, during the fieldwork. However, these are very preliminary conclusions and I will be replicating the same data collection protocol in the coming two summers.
All photos by A. Reza unless otherwise noted.
Table 1: Description and location of selected study sites in Bangladesh
|Calotes versicolor||Naja naja|