Sharing the Brunei experience with students at India’s Wildlife Institute

High up in the Western Himalayas of India a group of 24 highly-motivated students from all regions of India recently converged to learn about the newest research techniques in herpetology, the study of amphibians and reptiles. Beneath snow caped mountains, students erected drift fences to catch elusive reptiles, searched mountain streams for frogs, clambered up rocky slopes in search of lizards and snakes, and learned how to best record frog calls, determine an animal’s diet, and take samples to detect the devastating chytrid fungal disease in frogs.

With amphibians being the most threatened vertebrate group and many reptile populations in decline, there is an urgent need to better understand the ecology of amphibians and reptiles to improve their conservation. The Indian School in Herpetology is at the forefront of such research initiatives and it met in October 2015 at the renowned Wildlife Institute of India in Dehradun. UBD’s Prof Ulmar Grafe was invited as an expert to share his research expertise in bioacoustics, radio-telemetry, mark-recapture methodology, multimodal communication, and the study of functional diversity of amphibians. Talks during the workshop, poster sessions, and a hands-on in situ conservation session allowed student to further hone their skills, many having already carried out high-impact herpetological research of their own. It was agreed that more regionally coordinated monitoring of amphibian and reptile populations is needed using standardized methods, including as well studies of such aspects of natural history as diet, movement patterns breeding phenology, structure of natural communities, population genetics and functional ecological roles. Current knowledge of amphibians and reptiles from other countries, including Brunei, reveal the importance of such information to conservation and the protection of ecosystem services, such as pest control. The Indian Herpetology School is an annual event and is likely to make a major contribution towards amphibian and reptile conservation especially as it is networking with experts from other countries. Some workshop participants have expressed interest in coming to Brunei to further their studies: A very welcome response that will further regional exchange and cooperation.