Up-close and not so personal with Munnar’s pit vipers, gliding frogs and more

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Up-close and not so personal with Munnar’s pit vipers, gliding frogs and more
Amit Rane
  • The canopy of tropical forests in Munnar and the surrounding regions are rich with a plethora of mammals, reptiles, insects and birds.
  • Commonly known as the large-scaled pit viper, these beautiful snakes are listed as ‘Near Threatened’.
  • Gliding frogs can jump and glide from one tree to another, if these are short distances.
The plantation-cloaked hills of Munnar in Kerala nestle within itself a variety of critters that are impressive, but unfortunately have not received the airtime they deserve. Most visit the area for its rolling hills engulfed in a sea of green, but the true magic lies hidden amidst these very greens -- the reptiles and amphibians that thrive in the area.

Situated at the eastern edge of Kerala, the canopy of tropical forests in Munnar and the surrounding regions are rich with a plethora of mammals, reptiles, insects and birds -- from the elusive tiger to deer to elephants to packs of wild hogs to a massive variety of birds. However, refreshingly enough, there is a new trend among wildlife enthusiasts who are now leaning towards spotting and learning about the smaller creatures in the forest that otherwise go unnoticed.

Photographer Amit Rane is one such person. He excels in a wide range of photography fields, from landscapes to portraits, but he finds macro photography supremely intriguing. For his camera lens, size and hierarchy really do not matter.

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Up-close and not so personal with Munnar’s pit vipers, gliding frogs and more
Amit Rane

Reptiles
Trimeresurus macrolepis Beddome (Peltopelor macrolepis)

Commonly known as the large-scaled pit viper, these beautiful snakes are listed as ‘Near Threatened’ in the IUCN Red List. Found at elevations between 610 and 2,400 metres above sea level, these snakes are endemic to India. They are found only in the Western Ghats from the Nilgiri Hills to Ashambu and Agasthyamalai Hills in Kerala and Tamil Nadu. These nocturnal snakes are primarily found on trees and feed mainly on birds, rodents and frogs. The main threat to these species are people who kill them during encounters or get run over by vehicles while crossing roads.

Amphibians
Business Insider spoke to Ninad Gosavi, a member of faculty in biology at a private institute and one of the editors at Amphibians of India, to share some insights on some of the magnificent frogs that inhabit the area.
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Up-close and not so personal with Munnar’s pit vipers, gliding frogs and more
Amit Rane

Raorchestes beddomii
Discovered by Günther in 1876, these bush frogs belonging to the genus Raorchestes are small and dwell on trees and shrubs for calling during the breeding season. They originated in the Western Ghats and are distributed in Southern Western Ghats in Kerala (Athirimala and Munnar) and Tamil Nadu (Kannikatti) at elevations of 120-460 metres.

Up-close and not so personal with Munnar’s pit vipers, gliding frogs and more
Amit Rane

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Males call during monsoon to attract females and to establish their territory. Females lay eggs on shrubs, trees, inside bamboo, or rock crevices on land (different species have different oviposition sites).

Up-close and not so personal with Munnar’s pit vipers, gliding frogs and more
Amit Rane

The amazing thing about bush frogs is, unlike other frogs, they complete their tadpole stage inside the egg, and froglets hatch after metamorphosis. Eggs are terrestrial, and they do not require water bodies for development but nice humid weather.

Up-close and not so personal with Munnar’s pit vipers, gliding frogs and more
Amit Rane

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Raorchestes chlorosomma
Biju and Bossuyt discovered the Raorchestes chlorosomma in 2009. It is distributed in Munnar, Kerala in the southern Western Ghats. This is a critically endangered species because the habitat is degraded by tea and eucalyptus plantation.

Up-close and not so personal with Munnar’s pit vipers, gliding frogs and more
Amit Rane

Rhacophorus malabaricus
This is a froglet of Rhacophorus malabaricus (Malabar Gliding Frog). The gliding frogs have full webbing between fingers and toes. They can jump and glide from one tree to another (short distances). These frogs build foam nests over a water body, so when tadpoles hatch from eggs, they fall in the water.
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