Thursday, September 22, 2005

New beetles at Bandipur

Shankar Bennur

A group of entomologists and naturalists of Mysore have identified a wide variety of ants, beetles and butterflies found during a survey at the Bandipur National Park, a part of Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve. This first survey conducted at the park by Mysore-based Green Club, a trust dedicated to nature studies, has provided a platform for advanced research on insects.

The club, set up with the objective of conservation of nature and wildlife research, has submitted a preliminary checklist of ants, beetles and butterflies to the Forest Department. However, some new species of insects are yet to identified. The club is seeking the assistance of expert taxonomists for identifying certain new species of butterflies.

“Insects play an extremely important role in the ecosystem. But many species of insects are on the verge of extinction due to eco degradation. One of the most important roles insects play is the pollination of flowering plants. But insects are seen as agriculture pests which is wrong since many of them are benefactors of humans. They are the link in the food chain and biological controllers by feeding on the carcasses of dead animals,” explain Mr R S P Rao and Mr Amog of the club.

The club’s research on insects was supported by the University of Illinois, the Forest Department and Dr Priyadarsanan Dharma Rajan, a fellow scientist at the Centre for Insect Taxonomy and Conservation of Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and Environment (ATREE). Prof Mike from the University of Illinois encouraged the club’s research by offering certain techniques for insect collection.

Significantly, the survey has disclosed that the park is home for 85 species of butterflies, including some rare species. Likewise, 27 species of ants and 41 species of dung beetles have been identified in the survey conducted for a period of one and half years in four seasons in Bandipur forests that is spread across 800 sq kms. More then 150 volunteers were involved in the survey.

Only seven species of ants and seven species of dung beetles are yet to be identified. Nine species of extremely rare dung beetles, including Copris Indicus, Onthophagus Rana, Onthophagus Ensifer, Onthophagus Beesoni, Onitis Singhalensis, represented by single specimen in the collection of the survey have been identified in the park.

Mr R S P Rao argues that many people do not know that 40 per cent of crops are depended on insect pollination. Many are not interested in insect studies . “Therefore, we took up the research making use of available resources. Many scholars have supported our initiative,” he said.

Mr Rao expressed confidence that the research will help in preservation and advanced research on insects. “We started our activities with nature camps and adventure sports. Subsequently, we focussed on environmental awareness programmes for the public. Research in the field of wildlife and nature related aspects have been taken up since last three years,” Mr Amog explains.

In fact, an exhibition of insects collected during the research was conducted at the century-old Mysore Zoo. “We got overwhelming response from the public. They were surprised to see a wide variety of insects. Our prime goal is to educate the public on the world of insects,” he informed.

The club’s next aim to hold insect exhibitions in schools and colleges and highlight the role played by insects for ecosystem. The Green Club has plans to take up advanced research on insects if it gets assistance from research institutions.



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