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Kerala is rich in reptile and amphibian diversity. The total species of reptiles reported in India is 440 of which 187 occur in Kerala. About 130 of these are restricted to the rain forests. They included turtles, snakes, lizards like geckos, skinks and the agamids. Non marine reptile species reported from Kerala is 169 of which 59 are endemic to Western Ghats and 9 are endemic to Kerala. The species categorized as endangered are leather back turtle, hauksbill turtle, green turtle, olive ridley turtle, wynaad palli, sholakal palli, dark brown lizard, uropeltids or shield tailed snakes like Madurai uropelt, red spotted uropelt, orange spotted uropelt, palni uropelt, Travancore kukri snake, black striped bronze back, striped small headed snake, Travancore cat snake, dussumieri’s smooth water snake, bibron’s coral snake, the mugger or marsh crocodile, the monitor lizard and the Indian rock python. The Cochin forest cane turtle and the Indian flap shelled turtle, Indian Chameleon, South Indian ground snake, reddish brown forest snake, reddish brown four-fingered skink, beddome’s blink snake and the Indian starred tortoise are included in the vulnerable category. The olive forest snake is classified as crtitically endangered reptile species recorded from Kerala. The salt water crocodile or estuarine crocodile that had a wide distribution once is now extinct in Kerala.
Star tortoise with beautifully patterned stars on its shell occurs in Chinnar Wildlife sanctuary in Kerala. Female is larger than the male. They live in scrub forests where summer temperatures get to over 45 degree Celsius during the day. Chinnar being a rain shadow forest region of Kerala is a typical habitat for the star tortoise. Illegal trading of this beautiful tortoise as per has led them to endangered status.
King cobra is the largest of venomous snakes in the world. It is the only snake in the world that builds nest for hatching its young ones and lives with single mate during the whole life time. The habitat of this king of serpents is moist evergreen undergrowths and reed brakes near the cold streams, in the interiors of Western Ghats and Himalayan foot hills. Their food includes chiefly other snakes and their own young ones.
Cochin forest cane turtle (Kerala forest terrapin)
It is one of the rarest turtles in the world. It inhabits in the rain forest of kerala. They live in damp forest floor and hunts millipedes, snails, insects, mushrooms, fruits and vegetables. Once it was considered as extinct but was rediscovered by biologists in 1980s in the forests of Kerala. An adult of this species is just the size of human hand and is the smallest species in India. The three ridges on the dull brown shell make it blend with the dead leaves on the forest floor. Hunting for meat poses threat to this rare turtle.
Kadalama at Kolavipalam (Olive ridley turtle)
Kolavipalam at kozhikode is the mass nesting site of highly endangered Olive ridley turtle, a marine creature that grows up to 3 feet. A female ridley lays around 150-180 eggs at a time. The eggs hatch after 50 days and the two inch long hatchlings come out of the pit. Hearing the sea they move towards the waves. The villagers here take measures for the survival of these turtles.