Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Where have all the butterflies gone?


When was the last time you saw them in your garden? Delhi Times on the vanishing species...

The warning bells are ringing. India's butterfly population is dwindling fast. Thanks to a thriving smuggling industry, the Atlas moth of the Khasi Hills is almost extinct, and exotic species like the Copper Butterfly, Swallowtail, Purple Emperor, Bhutan Glory and Malabar are in danger.

* The economic value of pollination by butterflies to agriculture is $200 billion dollars per year

* Stuffed in suitcases or envelopes, butterflies are smuggled to Japan, Germany, Hong Kong, the UK, Taiwan, Singapore

* In Himachal, N-E states, Uttaranchal, children are paid Rs 150 per day to catch butterflies

* For every perfect butterfly collected by smugglers, atleast 1,000 are thrown away because their wings are crushed

* Dead butterflies are used as wall hangings, earrings, decorative items; students paste butterflies in albums

* Pesticides like Aldrin, Endosulfan, DDT and Malathion are killing butterflies

"Of the thousands of butterfly species in India, less than a thousand remain. Atleast a hundred species are on the brink of extinction," says animal rights activist Maneka Gandhi. "A fall in the population of butterflies means a decrease in the number of their predators, and an increase for their prey." Informs wildlife conservationist Mike Pandey: "Butterflies are the second largest pollinators in the world after honey bees. As the population of butterflies declines, so too will the agriculture industry. This has happened in the US."


  • Smugglers : Butterfly collectors feed a global butterfly smuggling industry, of which the Atlas Moth is a victim. Websites offer framed butterflies to collectors while claiming these creatures are farm-bred. "But the fact is, butterflies can't be bred on farms," says Mike. Adds Maneka: "The methods used to catch butterflies are so crude that for every perfect specimen, at least 1,000 are thrown away."

  • Habitat loss : While most butterflies thrive in tropical forests, species like the Purple Emperor suffer from the depletion of forest cover. And that's not all. "The plants they fed on have disappeared along with butterflies that have become extinct," says Maneka.

  • Pesticide usage : "Pesticides like Aldrin, Endosulfan, affect butterflies and humans," says Mike. Adds Maneka: "DDT and Malathion not only kill 30,000 Indians annually through direct poisoning, they have also killed many species of plants, birds and insects."


  • More greenery, less pesticides : According to Isaac Kehimkar of the Bombay Natural History Society: "An increase in the native tree cover and reduction in the usage of pesticides can help butterflies. Also, people should be encouraged to maintain natural gardens which sustain life forms rather than sterilised gardens."

  • Better anti-smuggling patrolling : "Staff of GPOs and customs departments must be on the lookout for smugglers. Besides, people must desist from buying decorative items like framed butterflies, and colleges shouldn't encourage the collection of dead specimens."



Blogger Vijay Barve said...

The numbers are exaggerated in the article, but situationis alarming.

It is estimates that India has less than 2000 specis of butterflies.

12:10 AM  

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