New records of the Endangered balitorid loach, Travancoriaelongata Pethiyagoda & Kottelat1994, from the Kerala part of the Western Ghats, India


Jose Emmanuel 1, K. Krishnakumar 2, BennoPereira 3, Arun Kanagavel4, Anvar Ali 5 & Rajeev Raghavan 6


1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 Conservation Research Group (CRG), Department of Fisheries,

St. Albert’s College, Cochin, Kerala 682018, India

4 Wildlife Information Liaison Development (WILD), 96, Kumudam Nagar, Villankurichi Road, Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu 641035, India

6 Zoo Outreach Organization (ZOO), 96, Kumudam Nagar, VilankurichiRoad, Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu 641035, India

1, 2,3,

4, 5, (corresponding author)



doi:   |


Editor: Anonymity requested.                                   Date of publication: 26 June 2013 (online & print)


Manuscript details: Ms # o3407 | Received 14 November 2012 | Final received 15 June 2013 | Finally accepted 19 June 2013


Citation: Emmanuel, J., K. Krishnakumar, B. Pereira, A. Kanagavel,A. Ali & R. Raghavan(2013). New records of the Endangered balitoridloach, Travancoria elongata Pethiyagoda& Kottelat 1994, from the Kerala part of the Western Ghats, India. Journal of Threatened Taxa 5(10): 4504–4509;


Copyright: © Emmanuel et al. 2013.Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 UnportedLicense. JoTT allows unrestricted use of this article in any medium, reproduction and distribution by providing adequate credit to the authors and the source of publication.


Funding: Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF)-Western Ghats Program.


Competing Interest: The authors declare no competing interest.


Acknowledgements: The authors thank Animon S, PrasobhN, Fibin Baby and Justin for their help and support in the field. KK thanks Rohan Pethiyagodafor his help in the identification of the specimens. RR thanks the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF)-Western Ghats Program through the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and Environment (ATREE), Bangaluru, India for funding.  KK thanks the RuffordSmall Grants Foundation for funding. Field work was carried out with the official permission of the Kerala State Forest and Wildlife Department (WL12-8550/2009 and WL-10-7307/2011).


This article forms part of a special series on the Western Ghats of India, disseminating the results of work supported by the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF), a joint initiative of l’Agence Française de Développement, Conservation International, the European Commission, the Global Environment Facility, the Government of Japan, the MacArthur Foundation and the World Bank. A fundamental goal of CEPF is to ensure civil society is engaged in biodiversity conservation. Implementation of the CEPF investment program in the Western Ghats is led and coordinated by the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE).




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The superfamily Cobitoidea comprises around 1043 valid species of small benthic hill stream fishes found in Eurasia and parts of Africa (Kottelat 2012). These fishes have highly divergent life histories, and are of interest to both the aquarium trade as well as aquaculture (Liu et al. 2012).  However, they do not generally constitute a very conspicuous part of biodiversity because they are small and mostly hide among stones and organic debris (Kottelat 1998; MRC 2010).  Recent phylogenetic studies have suggested that Cobitoidea consist of five monophyletic  families:Balitoridae, Nemacheilidae,Cobitidae, Vaillantellidae, and Botiidae (Liu et al. 2012).

Family Balitoridae Swainson, 1839, constitutes an important part of the ichthyofauna of the Western Ghats with around 10 genera (Balitora, Bhavania, Homaloptera, Indoreonectes, Longischistura, Mesonoemacheilus, Nemacheilus, Nemachilichthys, Schisturaand Travancoria) and 38 species. They are commonly known as river, torrent or hill stream loaches and as the name suggests, are mostly rheophilic and associated with life in fast-flowing water for which they are well adapted (Tan 2006).  Balitorid loaches comprise one of the least studied groups of freshwater fishes in the Western Ghats with very little information on their actual diversity, population and ecology.  Even after years of ichthyological explorations, new species of balitorid loaches continue to be described from the Western Ghats (Bhoite et al. 2012; Raghavan et al. 2013).

The genus Travancoria Hora, 1941, endemic to the Western Ghats region (Jayaram 2010; Kottelat 2012) is represented by two species Travancoria jonesi described from the hill streams of Pampadumpara in Periyar River (Hora 1941) and T. elongatafrom Vettilapara in ChalakudyRiver (Pethiyagoda & Kottelat1994).  While T. jonesi is known to occur at multiple sites in at least four river systems (Chalakudy, Periyar, Pampa and Achankovil) (see Raghavan& Ali 2011), T. elongata till date was known to have a very restricted distribution with an area of occupancy of 44km2.  Its distribution in ChalakudyRiver was considered to be restricted to a 17km stretch (between Athirapilly Waterfall and ThumboormuzhiDam which includes its type locality, Vettilapara), while in Periyar River it was known to be restricted to a 5km stretch in the Pooyamkutty tributary (Ali & Raghavan 2011).  Due to its restricted distribution, combined with threats from pollution, destructive fishing and alien species, T.elongata has been assessed as Endangered (B1ab(iii,v)+2ab(iii,v)) in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (Ali & Raghavan 2011).

Recent field work in the Periyar River revealed the existence of undiscovered populations of T. elongata at two new locations, thereby extending the distribution range of this threatened species.  This contribution serves to document this information.

Fish were collected using a combination of gears including cast net, scoop net and a backpack electroshocker, during both day and night.  At each location, two specimens each were preserved in 95% ethanol while the rest were released after measuring and photographing them.  Counts and measurements follow Pethiyagoda & Kottelat (1994) (Table 1).  Specimens referred to in this contribution are deposited in the collections of the Conservation Research Group, St. Albert’s College (CRG-SAC), Kochi, India.

Travancoria elongata: CRG-SAC. 2012.7.1-2, 19.v.2012, 2 ex, 85–116 mm SL, India, Kerala, Mlappara,Periyar Tiger Reserve, 9.430N & 77.310E, elevation 967m, B. Pereira et al.; CRG-SAC.2012.15.1-2, 02.v.2012, 2ex, 101–127mm SL, India, Kerala, Thanikkudy, Periyar Tiger Reserve, 9.480N & 77.280E, 897m, A. Ali et al.; CRG-SAC.2012.8.1-2, 05.iv.2012, 2 ex, 99–101 mm SL, India, Kerala, Mankulam,Idukki, 10.080N & 76.980E, 1339m, A. Ali et al.; CRG-SAC. 2011.5.1-2, 21.i.2011, 2 ex, 66–104 mm SL, India, Kerala, Vettilapara,Chalakudy River, 10.290N & 76.480E, 55m, A. Ali et al.; CRG-SAC.2010.11.1-2, 2 ex, 67mm SL, India, Kerala, Pooyamkutty, Periyar River, 10.150N & 76.780E, 61m, F. Baby et al. (Images 1a to 4c).

Travancoria elongata is found mostly in fast flowing streams where they are restricted to riffles, runs, cascades and rapids (Kurup et al. 2004; Raghavanet al. 2008).  The species is seen attached to boulders, cobbles and bedrock using its broadened pectoral and pelvic fins.  At all our collection locations, T. elongata was obtained from these typical micro-habitats.  An example of the habitat of T. elongata in Chalakudy River is shown in Image 2.

The records reported here extend the number of locations in which T. elongataare found from two to four (Fig. 1). One of the new locations, Mankulam is ~30km upstream of Pooyamkutty from where it was previously recorded within the Periyar drainage (Radhakrishnan & Kurup2006).  Although we collected the species from streams in Thanikkudy and Mlappara inside the Periyar Tiger Reserve, we consider this as one location as per the IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria as the two sites (distance of ~2–4 km) will be equally threatened from a threatening event which in this case is alien species.  This location is at a distance of more than 100km upstream of Pooyamkutty.

Jayaram (2010; p188) mentions that T.elongata is found in Kovaicourtalam,Noyyal River (near Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu).  It is, however, not known whether this represents the author’s personal collection, or a record referred from a secondary source.  Since it has not been supported by any reference, we would like to consider this record with caution and refrain from treating it as valid until further information along with voucher specimens become available.

Several researchers have considered T. elongata to be a rare species (Biju et al. 1999; Euphrasia et al. 2006), while others have been unable to collect the species in spite of detailed sampling (Ajithkumar et al.1999).  The sites inside the Periyar Tiger Reserve from where we obtained our specimens have been extensively surveyed for the past decade and a half, resulting in the description of several new species and records.  However, T. elongatawas never recorded till date.  This indicates that our knowledge of ichthyofauna from many streams including those which have been explored for many decades is still far from complete.

Similar to previously known sites of occurrence (Vettilapara and Pooyamkutty), the new locations from where T. elongata has been recorded are also threatened by pollution, alien species and destructive fishing practices.  In Mankulam, T.elongata co-occurs with five alien species, Clarias gariepinus,Cyprinus carpio, Oreochormis mossambicus, Xiphophorus helleri and Poecilia reticulata, while the habitats in the stretch between Thanikkudyand Mlappara inside the PeriyarTiger Reserve has populations of O. mossambicus.  In addition, the habitat in Mankulam is threatened by pollution from plantations of cardamom, pepper and tea, extensive deforestation and loss of riparian vegetation, and the use of poisons and dynamite for fishing.  Travancoria elongata is also known to be collected for the global aquarium pet trade (Kumar & Devi 2013; Raghavan et al. 2013) through what is largely an unmanaged and unregulated fishery (Raghavan 2010).  This open-access fishery is known to be an additional threat to the species in the wild (see Ali & Raghavan 2011).

Since T. elongata is found only in four fragmented locations (Thanikkudy and Mlapparaconsidered as a single location), with three of them subjected to severe threats, the species will still need to be retained under the Endangered Category (EOO < 5000 in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.  In addition, very little is known about the natural history of this species, including its feeding ecology, reproductive biology, mortality rates and longevity. Future research, therefore, needs to focus on filling these knowledge gaps.

Our study reiterates the fact that ichthyofauna of Western Ghats is influenced by the Wallacean and Linneanshortfalls and is in need of extensive micro-geographic surveys and improved taxonomic research (Dahanukar et al. 2011; Raghavan et al. 2012) so as to generate baseline data to inform conservation actions for many endemic and threatened species like T. elongata.





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