Himalayan salamander at risk

Pashupatinagar, January 4

Himalyan salamander is on the verge of extinction due to growing human encroachment on its habitat, use of pesticides in cereal crops and its trafficking. It is considered one of the most primitive species among salamanders. It lives in water and in wetland areas and is light brown in colour.

The amphibian enlisted in the International Union for Conservation of Nature red list, is found in Ilam, Panchthar and Taplejung, according to a research conducted in 2004.  It is also found in India, China, Bhutan, Myanmar and Thailand. However, biologists have yet to determine its population. Another study conducted between 1980 to 2000 showed that the amphibian also known as Himalayan newt is highly endangered due to deforestation, human encroachment and use of harmful pesticides in cereals. Although this species faces serious threat, no initiative has been taken to protect it.

Found at an altitude of 1,000 to 3,000 metres, the Himalayan salamander lives in forest full of lichen, fresh water bodies, ponds, wetland and water sources, according to KR Khumbu, a researcher.

People kill Himalayan salamander for making medicines out of its body parts. Kamal Mukhiya of Maipokhari in Ilam said this amphibian can be used as medicine for back pain. Researchers have pointed out that smuggling of this amphibian from Nepal is on the rise due to its high demand in the international market. Male of the species is 15.3 centimetres while female is 16.4 centimetres long. Himalayan salamander will go extinct in Nepal if immediate action is not taken for its conservation, according to researchers.

Another study showed that the population of Himalayan salamander was declining due to pollution of wetlands and water bodies resulting from unplanned development works. Another reason for its decline in Darjeeling area is expansion of tea plantation, development of tourism sites and rapid urbanisation. Although non-government organisations have been conducting awareness raising programmes to protect Himalayan salamander, these efforts are not adequate to address the problem. Government of Nepal has not initiated any programme for its conservation.

Chief Administrative Officer of Sandakpur Rural Municipality in Ilam Mahesh Rai said the rural municipality was working for conservation of the Himalayan salamander in and around Maipokhari area, a major habitat of this species.