Monday, May 11, 2009

Current status of Endangered Herpetofauna in Sri Lanka

Asha Dissanayake

Herpetofauna mean all reptiles and amphibians of a certain area. Herpetofauna constitute significant biomass, often exceeding that of all other vertebrates. They form important linkages in the ecosystem by providing dispersal mechanism for plants, form an important link in the tropic structure through predation, and form a potential prey- base themselves, contribute to environmental heterogeneity, and have key stone function in maintaining ecosystem structure and forest important symbiotic associations with an array of organism.

Sri Lanka ranks as a great herpetological paradise in the world. It is blessed with not only high amphibian and reptile diversity and endemism, but also relatively high densities of individuals interested in herpetology and publications, especially when compared with other countries in South Asia.Sri Lanka supports a high species richness and endamacity in herpertofauna, with 106 described species of amphibians and 171 described species of reptiles. Among them there are 56 reptiles and 52 amphibians are totally threatened. Yala National Park,Knuckles Range, Udawattakelle Sanctuary, Sinharaja, and Horton plains are the herpetological importance sites in Sri Lanka.

At present large scale conversion of forest areas for agriculture, plantation and settlements has put great stress on the remaining tropical forests of the country. Changing land use patterns, habitat fragmentation and habitat destruction have caused severe threats to the amphibian and reptiles. Also a combination of other factors including use of organoclorine pesticides and herbicides may have caused declining population of once abundant Herpetofauna of Sri Lanka.

Hence it is of critical importance to comprehensively identify the Herpetofauna of Sri Lanka in order to develop conservation measures which may help in encouraging ecotourism, building biodiversity database, land use planning and the production of regional and international Red Data Books of threatened species.

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