Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Loss of forest cover in India: Threat to cockroaches is threat to ecology and survival of animals, plants and human beings, says Dr Srini Kambhampati

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: The loss of forest cover in India is threatening
the very survival of not only big animals, but also small creepy
creatures like cockroaches, which play a vital role in recycling
nutrients in the woods.

According to Dr Srini Kambhampati, Hyderabad-born American biologist,
cockroaches are fast losing their natural habitat in the country, and
this threatens their very survival. “Considering that there is very
little forest left in India, two issues are of concern. First,
cockroach habitat is being destroyed and they, like many other
species, are either threatened or endangered. Second, the role of
cockroaches in recycling nutrients in forests becomes even more
critical to maintain the health of the remaining forest”.

Dr Srini is the chair in the Department of Biology, The University of
Texas at Tyler, USA. He told this correspondent that India has a
remarkable diversity of cockroach species, like many tropical
countries. Of the few thousand species of cockroaches, only four have
become a major nuisance for human beings.

“Unfortunately, little research has been done on Indian species.
Almost all the research is on a handful of species that are associated
with humans - such as American, German, and Oriental cockroaches - all
of which are cosmopolitan and thought to have originated in Africa. I
do not know the number of species that are native to India. But I
suspect their ecological role is similar to those species found in
other tropical countries,” he points out.

Dr Srini has often stressed the importance of cockroaches, the creepy
creatures that many consider useless, in the ecology of forests and
the survival of animals and human beings. While cockroaches that live
in the greenery play a vital role in the nutrient management of the
forests, those that inhabit kitchens are a problem for human beings.

“Of course, domestic cockroach species - especially the American
cockroach - are a huge problem in India. They are not like mosquitoes
in that they spread a lot of disease. Mostly they mechanically
transport bacteria and other pathogenic organisms from one environment
to another,” he observes.

Dr Srini said cockroach skin and body parts also are a major source of
allergic reactions in people. But given the many breeding places and
abundant food available to cockroaches in India, this will continue to
be a problem. Only thing people can do is to keep their homes clean,
do periodic treatment for cockroaches (there are some non-toxic
alternatives), and place barriers to prevent cockroaches from entering
their homes.

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