Kerala

The Western Ghats still home to a rainbow of butterflies

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Three-day survey finds 191 species of the insect, 12 of which are endemic to the biodiversity-rich region

The Western Ghats is still home to a kaleidoscope of butterflies. A survey that ended in the Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary (WWS) on Monday could sight 191 species, 12 of which are endemic to the biodiversity-rich region.

The first-time sighting of Silver forget me not, Common three ring, and Brown onyx was also recorded. The sighting of Silver forget me not was reported only from the Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary in Idukki district of the State. The three-day survey was done jointly by the Forest and Wildlife Department in association with the Ferns Nature Conservation Society (FNCS).

In four ranges

The survey was conducted in all the four forest ranges under the sanctuary, including Muthanga, Tholpetty, Kurichyad and Sulthan Bathery, simultaneously.

The survey was mainly aimed at assessing the butterfly diversity in the forest areas of the region, which is vulnerable to climatic changes. It was also wanted to assess the availability of nectar plant and larval host plant, essential for the survival of butterflies. As many as 18 camps were set up.

Four researchers, V.C. Balakrishnan of the Society for Environment Education, Payyannur; Balakrishnan Valappil and V.K. Chandrashekharan of the Malabar Natural History Society; and C. Sushanth of the Warblers and Waders, a Thiruvananthapuram -based nature lovers’ forum; and 70 butterfly enthusiasts, including students; took part in the survey.

“The diversity of butterflies was very low in the forest areas where alien invasive plants such as Senna spectabilis invade other endemic plants, whereas the diversity was very rich in areas where plants such as Mikania micrantha and Lantana camera remained dominant,” the researchers said.

The team reported 60 species of Nymphalidae, 49 Lycanidae, 45 Hesperidae, 21 Pieridae, 14 Papplionedae, and two species of Riodinidae, P.A. Vinayan, president, FNCS, said.

“The sighting of 191 species of butterflies is an evidence of a healthy butterfly habitat in the region, but the degradation of the riparian forest in many part of the region may adversely affect the butterfly habitat in the near future,” Mr. Vinayan, who coordinated the survey, said.

Survey objective

Warden P.K. Asif supervised the programme.

“As the study on butterflies was also the study on nature and climate change, the survey report would help the Forest Department to prepare a forest management plan in the region in the coming years,” assistant conservator of forest Ajith K Raman said.

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Printable version | Dec 11, 2019 9:13:16 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/the-western-ghats-still-home-to-a-rainbow-of-butterflies/article29956417.ece

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