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South Asian amphibians: taxonomy, diversity and conservation status



The global conservation crisis facing amphibians requires regional taxonomic-based assessments of conservation status. The current and probable future needs for captive-breeding facilities in zoos and other institutions are revealed by the number, habitat and life-cycle types of threatened candidate species in the region. The geopolitical region of South Asia is home to four biodiversity hotspots with very high faunal, floral and fungal diversity. A total of 348 amphibians is currently described from the eight countries of the region, and India and Sri Lanka show very high amphibian diversity. In this paper, I compare and contrast the first regional amphibian biodiversity assessments from 1997 with more recent assessments. This includes a checklist of all amphibians in the region, with new taxonomic information added, especially from the Global Amphibian Assessment. A summary of amphibian biodiversity statistics, the kinds of threats facing amphibians and the current status of species in South Asia is given. Twenty species are Extinct, 26 Critically Endangered, 66 Endangered, 26 Vulnerable, 11 Near Threatened, 30 Least Concern and 77 Data Deficient. The cooperation and contributions of the more than 250 amphibian biologists, academics, taxonomists, amateurs, photographers and educators in the Amphibian Network of South Asia (ANSA) were essential for the assessments and this comparative study. The successful model of a networking principle and activities of the ANSA are also discussed. The role of chytridiomycosis in species declines is unknown owing to a lack of surveys on the presence of chytrid fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis. Although most of the threatened and Extinct species are anurans, the bush frog group of frogs seems to be the most speciose and also the most threatened group owing to highly restricted distributions. The Philautus genus would be an ideal group to breed in captivity owing to its direct development cycle.