Protecting Nature's Hotspots for people and prosperity

Grantee Spotlight: Sathyabhama Das Biju


​ Sathyabhama Das Biju in the Western Ghats of India. © Sid 261989 (CC BY-SA 3.0) 

Sathyabhama Das Biju might not be universally recognized as a celebrity, but he has recently been in the limelight for his frog discoveries in India. He has discovered 89 of the country’s approximately 350 frog species. 

Biju’s latest discovery came with the help of his team of scientists from the University of Delhi. During an expedition in 2007, they came across a tree frog that was thought to have died out more than 100 years ago. DNA analysis only recently revealed that the tree frog is part of a new genus, so the frog’s name was changed from Polypedates jerdonii to Frankixalus jerdonii

​ Endangered purple frog (Nasikabatrachus sahydrensis). © Karthickbala (CC BY-SA 3.0)​

Biju gained notoriety in conservation circles in 2003 when he discovered the Endangered purple frog (Nasikabatrachus sahyadrensis). According to the Arkive, “The sole surviving member of an ancient group of amphibians that evolved some 13 million years ago, the discovery of the purple frog has been described as a ‘once-in-a-century find.’” 

“This frog changed my life. It made me what I am today,” Biju told the BBC. The discovery vindicated Biju’s controversial paper published in 2001 that claimed up to 200 frog species were still undiscovered in India. “We neglect our extraordinarily diverse biodiversity [in India]. I have, at least, got people talking about frogs."

The Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) is supporting Biju and the University of Delhi’s endeavors. With $120,000 in grant funding from CEPF, Biju and his team at the University of Delhi are producing a comprehensive guide for amphibians in the Western Ghats Region of India​. They are also developing a national management plan to guide amphibian conservation efforts, mapping the proposed network of protected areas for threatened amphibians in the Western Ghats, and advocating for the establishment of a dedicated amphibian sanctuary. 

Read more about Biju’s discoveries: 

‘Extinct’ tree frog rediscovered in India after 137 years
BBC News

Frog-hunters of the Western Ghats
The Economist

India’s maverick ‘frog man’
by Soutik Biswas
BBC Earth