Butterfly Conservation

Conservation of butterflies-Part II



-Dr.S.P. Surya Prakash

Butterflies play an important role in pollination after honeybees by pollinating a major portion of economically important crop, 3/4 part of  staple crop in world, and more than 75% of flowering plants etc. The 1000 years old silk industry is also dependent on these Lepidoptera. Butterflies are also an indicator of environmental health and the ecosystem service providers from the starting level. Around hundred species of butterflies are at the verge of extinction in India. If the butterfly population decline    then it will directly affect the agriculture industry. India must take lesson from USA where most of the butterflies have extinct or are endangered that is not all the host plants also have dwindled or have vanished due to depletion in forest cover along with butterflies and now USA is importing live butterflies and rehabilitating them in the country for pollination.


These indispensable pollinators   play vital role in agriculture are heading towards extinction unnoticed from our country. Delhi alone has around 80 species of butterflies, which is much more than 56 species of whole of United Kingdom.


Once there was a purple Butterfly’ a film made by Sonya V. Kapoor on butterflies ,not only tells the story of butterfly diversity in India but also shows the crime against butterflies, depletion of forest covers, and how these lepidopterons are smuggled in international market live or dead in matchboxes and how the livelihood of many native local  people is dependent on this trade.



The life cycle of butterfly completes in four stages from laying eggs in a host plant from the eggs emerges larvae called caterpillars which vigorously   feeds upon host plant and transforms into pupa and now development takes place inside and than comes adult butterfly the development from pupa to adult butterfly is called metamorphosis. Life of an adult butterfly is very short like two weeks and during this period it has to find a mate and host plant for propagation of species.


Butterflies, apart from nectar of flowers feed upon decaying fruits, dead animals and can be seen basking on rocks and on mud puddles near any water body; some times they can be seen sucking minerals from bird dropping or any other source of decaying plant.  Butterflies rarely go to rose flowers and some butterflies  never even go to feed on any flower.


It is not necessary that all beautiful gardens with all sort of greenery with flowering plants should have butterflies; host plants are important in a park for butterfly diversity that is why natural jungles are important for these lepidopterons.


‘ButterflyIndia’ is the only major group actively involved in sharing, discussing, studying,conservation and organizing annual butterfly meet   on butterflies in India. Butterfly conservation is little technical and scientific which needs knowledge of biological sciences, especially for those who come from non-scientific background in butterfly conservation. The knowledge of habitat and species –specific host plant in every region play an important role. It is not at all possible to create same ecological conditions in all different regions for example Himalayan butterflies can not be conserved in Thar desert of Rajasthan and vise versa. Therefore, the conservation values of any region depend on the extent of endemic and protected species of that area.


Presently Dr. H.S.Rose from Zoology dept, Patiala ,Punjab, Jatin Tamuly and Maan Barua,  both from Assam, Gaonkar, etc are doing very good work on butterflies and  the moths in the country, apart from all those who are actively engaged in butterfly conservation specially in the South and North East where good number of people are involved in butterfly study and conservation as compared to northern part of the country.  Ministry of Environment and Forests, New Delhi has given financial assistance to propagate butterflies in a captive breeding programme  for conservation in Peechi (Kerala), union minister for science and technology Kapil Sibal has inaugurated a butterfly park by jointly funding it with Karnataka govt. at Bannerghatta in Bangalore. Such initiatives from government are encouraging but need consistency and more such projects need to be funded for every region in the country.

( To be continued)


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