By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: The loss of forest cover in India is threateningthe very survival of not only big animals, but also small creepycreatures like cockroaches, which play a vital role in recyclingnutrients in the woods.
According to Dr Srini Kambhampati, Hyderabad-born American biologist,cockroaches are fast losing their natural habitat in the country, andthis threatens their very survival. “Considering that there is verylittle forest left in India, two issues are of concern. First,cockroach habitat is being destroyed and they, like many otherspecies, are either threatened or endangered. Second, the role ofcockroaches in recycling nutrients in forests becomes even morecritical to maintain the health of the remaining forest”.
Dr Srini is the chair in the Department of Biology, The University ofTexas at Tyler, USA. He told this correspondent that India has aremarkable diversity of cockroach species, like many tropicalcountries. Of the few thousand species of cockroaches, only four havebecome 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 associatedwith humans - such as American, German, and Oriental cockroaches - allof which are cosmopolitan and thought to have originated in Africa. Ido not know the number of species that are native to India. But Isuspect their ecological role is similar to those species found inother tropical countries,” he points out.
Dr Srini has often stressed the importance of cockroaches, the creepycreatures that many consider useless, in the ecology of forests andthe survival of animals and human beings. While cockroaches that livein the greenery play a vital role in the nutrient management of theforests, those that inhabit kitchens are a problem for human beings.
“Of course, domestic cockroach species - especially the Americancockroach - are a huge problem in India. They are not like mosquitoesin that they spread a lot of disease. Mostly they mechanicallytransport bacteria and other pathogenic organisms from one environmentto another,” he observes.
Dr Srini said cockroach skin and body parts also are a major source ofallergic reactions in people. But given the many breeding places andabundant food available to cockroaches in India, this will continue tobe a problem. Only thing people can do is to keep their homes clean,do periodic treatment for cockroaches (there are some non-toxicalternatives), and place barriers to prevent cockroaches from entering their homes.
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