Do frogs really eat cardamom? Understanding the myth of crop damage by amphibians in the Western Ghats, India
In the Western Ghats of India, amphibians are culled at cardamom plantations since they are perceived to consume cardamom. To better understand the relationship between amphibians and cardamom, a study was undertaken at these plantations, which harbor numerous threatened and range-restricted amphibians. We undertook questionnaire surveys with 298 respondents at 148 plantations across southern India. Time-activity budget and diet analysis surveys were undertaken to determine whether amphibians really consumed cardamom. The conception that amphibians eat cardamom was found to be widespread especially among small-sized plantations, leading to negative perceptions and a lack of interest in amphibian conservation. The plantation community perceives a substantial economic loss due to amphibians, even though this is non-existent as revealed by our field surveys. These perceptions would lead to a continued intolerance of amphibian presence in plantations. A suitable outreach initiative re-affirming facts and spreading awareness on the positive role of amphibians would need to be conducted to negate this age-old myth.
KeywordsAgroforestry Cardamom plantations Diet analysis Frogs Local perception Pesticide use
The authors thank Monica Harpalani for her help in undertaking the surveys; Ravi Chellam and KV Gururaja for their support; Sunil Sachi for assisting with contacts in Karnataka; Mahadesh for assisting in the surveys; Gayathri Selvaraj for helping with data analysis; Sandeep Das for helping with species identification; and Benjamin Tapley for his suggestions that vastly improved the manuscript. Critical comments from two anonymous reviewers vastly improved the manuscript. The authors thank K. Ranjeet, Director, School of Fisheries Resource Management and Harvest Technology, Kerala University of Fisheries and Ocean Studies for laboratory facilities. The study was financially supported by the Inlaks Ravi Sankaran Fellowship Program–Small Grants Project 2014 and Idea Wild to AK and Ocean Park Conservation Foundation, Hong Kong (OPCFHK; FH03.1516).
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