Hyderabad: A team from the World Wide Fund for Nature, Hyderabad, had found Golden Gecko, a rare and endangered species, from the magnificent but severely threatened Papikonda hills abutting the river Godavari in the northern Eastern Ghats in the State.
The animal, known to scientists as Calodactylodes aureus, was previously recorded in Andhra Pradesh only from the Seshachalam hills of the southern Eastern Ghats.
According to WWF Hyderabad head Farida Tampal, this severely endangered lizard, recognised in and protected by the Schedule I Part II of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, belongs to Gekkonidae, a family consisting of some of the most primitive living lizards.
The genus Calodactylodes consists of large, distinctive geckos inhabiting rocky habitat in peninsular India and Sri Lanka. The Golden Gecko holds special interest to herpetologists as it represents one of only two known species in the genus Calodactylodes, considered relics of the Gondwana period in the earth’s geological history.
According to her, a short but intensive survey was conducted to investigate the population size and extent in the locality. Sub adult golden geckos were also encountered and were often brownish grey coloured, becoming increasingly golden coloured, with adult males prominently golden in colour, giving rise to its distinguishing name. Adults often display territorial behaviour and are very vocal and aggressive, fighting off invaders with great ferocity.
According to existing literature, the Golden Gecko was first discovered in Arcot and Vellore in 1870, with a second population being reported from Seshachalam and Velikonda hill ranges in Andhra Pradesh in 1985 and very recently from Niyamgiri hills in Orissa. The locality where the gecko was sighted is part of the Perantalapalle Reserve Forest of Khammam district, and is situated next to the Papikonda Wildlife Sanctuary. The discovery of the Golden Gecko from this region confirms its contiguous existence in the southern and northern Eastern Ghats.
"However, this rare and endangered species is facing an imminent threat from the construction of the Indira Sagar Project (Polavaram project) which threatens to inundate this entire stretch of the Eastern Ghats with the flood waters. A forest area of 88.1 hectares of the Perantalapalle RF will be submerged when the project is completed, threatening the fragile environment of the Eastern Ghats and placing the existence of the Golden Gecko in grave jeopardy," she pointed out.
The governments’ policy of pursuing such development project without due consideration for the environment could render several such endemic and range restricted species inhabiting the Eastern Ghats permanently extinct before being recognised by science.