New Frog And Waterbird Species Discovered In Bhutan

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The discoveries take the number of water bird species in Bhutan to 81 and the amphibian species to 57.

The Leptobrachium bompu frog and the Common Golden Eye are newly discovered species in Bhutan. (Source: BBS)

 

By Phub GyemBBS

The Common Golden Eye, a new water bird species was spotted in Bhutan on 5 January this year. This takes the number of water bird species to 81 as per the annual census carried out on 21 January.  

The lone female Common Golden Eye was sighted along the Punatsangchhu at Bajo in Wangdue Phodrang. It was first spotted by Sangay Nidup, a forester at the Wangdue territorial division.

The bird which has prominent golden eyes, measures around 50 cm in height and weighs about 900 g. It is categorised as ‘least concern’ as this bird shows no sign of decline or threat to its population.

The bird is usually found in Canada, Northern Europe, and the Siberian Plains in Russia. It is rarely sighted in the Indian Subcontinent.

 

 Source: Youtube/Weird Square

 

The Chief Research Officer with the Ugyen Wangchuck Institute for Conservation and Environmental Research (UWICER) Sherub said that the sighting is an indication of the country’s sound conservation policies and well-protected habitats for a diverse species of flora and fauna to thrive. This shows that Bhutan is a safe haven for migratory birds.

Where are the annual water bird census being carried out?

The UWICER carries out the water bird census every year to obtain information on the population of water birds along Bhutan’s rivers and wetlands.

The annual water bird census saw more than 60 species of water birds along the Punatsangchhu.

The annual census was also being carried out along the Thimchhu, Paachhu, Punatsangchhu, Mangdechhu, Chamkharchhu, Drangmechhu, Kulongchhu, Jomochhu, Neyra Amachhu, Maochhu, Amochhu, Puglichhu, Haachhu, and along the natural wetlands of Phobjikha and Khotokha.

The annual census record shows that the Ruddy Shelduck is the most common water bird in the country. In fact, Bhutan has as many as 1,800 Ruddy shelducks, which are found mostly along the Punatsangchhu.

 

The Ruddy Shelduck.

Photo: Oriental Bird Images

 

The information serves as a basis for the evaluation of migratory sites as well as to monitor the population of water birds.

Water birds are believed to contribute to nutrient recycling and the maintenance of a fresh water eco-system.

These birds also help in seed dispersal on a continental scale and provide consumers with meat, feathers and eggs. Besides that, they are also found to be of aesthetic value and can be a source of tourist attraction.

A new frog species discovered in Bhutan

A new frog species called Leptobrachium bompu, which belongs to the class of Eastern Spadefoot Toad was recorded in Sarpang. This takes the amphibian species in Bhutan to 57.

The record was published in the ‘Journal of Threatened Taxa’ this year. It is an International Journal for the publication of research, findings and reviews related to the conservation and taxonomy of the flora, fauna and fungi in Bhutan.

 

Map: The Journal of Threatened Taxa/26 February 2019 Vol. 11 No. 3 

 

The frog was spotted at the Pakhola at Jigmecholing in Sarpang in 2015, at an altitude of 1,610 metres above sea level.

Pakhola is one of the primary tributaries of the Simkhar River. The watershed is known to host amphibians due to the presence of natural lakes and swampy areas. The area is also a habitat for other frog species.

Jigme Tenzin, the forester who discovered the bompu, revealed that out of the 1.42 km long Pakhola stream, the frog was recorded only at one spot. This indicates the rarity of its population.

Jigme Tenzin, along with his colleague Jigme Tshelthrim Wangyal carried out the study on the new frog to help understand the range and conservation status of the species.

He also mentioned that if research activities are extended to other districts of Bhutan, there is a higher chance of discovering new species.

Traits of the Leptobrachium Bompu

This new species has has a distinctive eye colour – blue with vertical iris. It has noticeably wrinkled skins, which differentiates it from other species.

 

Photo: Jigme Tenzin/The Journal of Threatened Taxa 26 February 2019 Vol. 11 No. 3

 

The Leptobrachium Bompu draws its name from a campsite called Bampu in Arunachal Pradesh where it was first discovered. It is also found in Gelin village and Buqiong Lake in China.

The study suggests that the frog probably prefers moss-laden rocks for hiding, damp and swampy areas for sustenance, and slow-flowing hill streams for breeding and reproduction.

The species is relatively new to science, hence there is a lack of adequate information on its significance to the eco-system.

Owing to the rarity of this species, a separate study on its abundance, distribution patterns, and conservation threats will be carried out for its conservation.

 

This article first appeared in BBS and has been edited for Daily Bhutan.

 


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