Western Ghats Current Affairs
Tamil Nadu government has announced Scheme for protection of exotic Neela kurinji (Strobilanthus kunthianus) plants that flower only once in 12 years. This scheme comes following complaints that these rare and ecologically unique flowers are being packaged and sold on the commercial basis.
Neelakurinji is a tropical plant species. It is native to Shola forests in Western Ghats. It is also seen in Shevroys Hills in Eastern Ghats, Anamalai hills and Agali hills in Kerala and Sanduru hills in Karnataka. It grows at height of 30 to 60 cm on hills slopes at an altitude of 1300 to 2400 meters where there is no tree forest. The flowers of Neelakurinji are purple-blue in colour and blooms once in 12 years. The flower has no smell or any medicinal value. It is because of these flowers, Nilgiri hills in southern tip of Western Ghats are called blue mountains. It is rarest of rare plant species that grows in Western Ghats and does not grow in any other part of the world. It has been categorized as endangered species. In ancient Tamil literature, kurinji flowers symbolize love. Paliyan tribal people living in Tamil Nadu use this flower bloom as reference to calculate their age.
Scientists have discovered a new species of shieldtail snake named Bhupathy’s shieldtail from the Western Ghats in Tamil Nadu. It is presently only known to exist in Anaikatty hills of Tamil Nadu which is dominated by deciduous type of vegetation.
Bhupathy’s shieldtail was named in honour of Dr Subramanian Bhupathy who was a noted Indian herpetologist. Scientifically it is named Uropeltis bhupathyi. It differs from other members of its group as it has a broader and longer head. It also has more number of scales on its belly. The news species is facing threats from habitat loss, road traffic and possible fungal infection that leads to deformed heads. It has been categorised it as ‘data deficient’ in IUCN Red list of threatened species as of now.
At present, there are 45 known species of shieldtail snakes around the world, of which 30 are endemic to India and 15 to Sri Lanka. The name ‘shieldtail’ derives from their heavily keeled tails that terminate in disk-like shields or multiple spines in most species.
They are small sized snakes, typically 25 to 50 cm in length. They live in loose soil among plant roots or under decaying vegetation. They are non-venomous, inoffensive. They come in a variety of colors, mostly dark shades of grayish black or brown. They have short head and mouth and feed on earthworms and arthropods.