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BUTTERFLY CONSERVATION

Why to conserve butterflies?
These unique creatures of nature are found in a variety of habitats. Conserving butterflies means conserving that particular habitat or that particular ecosystem. There is positive correlation between the species richness of butterflies and the host plants. They being the important food chain component, their sheer numbers supply a vast food sources for predators like birds, reptiles, spiders and predatory insects. They are significant plant pollinators too. The rich floral diversity of a place having significant numbers of medicinal herbs, shrubs, climbers and trees offers us great opportunity to study its faunal diversity in detail.

The life span of butterfly being short, they become an important subject for genetical research. The migration behaviour, seasonal variation, feeding habit, mating behaviour, colouration, prey-predator relationship, butterfly-flower association, species indicator to environmental changes are some of the interesting subject on which the biologists are conducting research and the butterfly being short-lived species, they become very helpful to the scientists for their research works.

In the present days conserving wild life largely means conserving larger life forms like Tiger, Rhino, and Elephants etc. Smaller life forms like butterflies, spiders, dragon flies etc. are treated as non-target species. Nowadays, of course the conservation effort of smaller life forms has gained momentum with introduction of concept of "biodiversity conservation". The Wild Life (Protection) Act 1972 has enough provisions for conservation of butterflies. Under this Act, around 120 species and sub-species of butterflies and moths are in Schedule-I and nearly 292 species and sub-species are in Schedule-II. But the legislation alone can not save and protect the species from being extinct from nature. Effective steps in maintaining the wild life habitat through continuous process of awareness generation among the local community, young generation is required.

Conservation measures and techniques:
Conservation of a group of species like butterfly can not be achieved in isolation. Our approach should be "in-situ conservation" i.e. to conserve the biodiversity at all its levels, specific ecosystem and habitat which supports that particular group of species is to be conserved. Although this conservation approach will vary according to the specific location, there are some basic guidelines which can be classified as under:

  • Protecting butterfly habitat and ecosystem
  • Identifying larval host plants, nectar source plants and protecting them, multiplying them where situation demands
  • Earmarking some part or entirely of a protected area network as an area protected for butterfly study and research
  • Conducting butterfly survey and census
  • Identification of butterfly, Local naming
  • Awareness generation among local community and involving them in conservation process
  • Disseminating information on butterfly - publishing field guide, pictorial guide, poster, newsletter, website
  • Butterfly gardening - rearing them artificially and releasing them in nature
  • Need for capacity building at grassroots level in order to form a conservation working group and a network to study butterflies. Suitable target groups might be
    • individuals and nature organizations from urban, semi-urban and rural areas who are greater stakeholders in conservation,
    • youth,
    • Forest (Rangers) Guards and other managers of wildlife reserves and other protected area networks

Threats to butterflies:
There are many factors affecting the butterfly habitat adversely. While initiating conservation approach for butterfly these threats are to be taken into account.

  • Increased human population followed by over exploitation of forests, urbanization, clearing of forests for industrialization
  • Overgrazing in forest areas
  • Monoculture and planting of exotics in forestry
  • Use of pesticides in agricultural operation
  • Air pollution is gradually depleting the butterfly population. It's not only a serious threat to the butterfly population but also to the entire biodiversity of the adjoining areas.
  • Illegal trade of butterfly
  • Using forest areas for non-forestry purposes like mining, making large dams and reservoirs, construction of roads