Sunday, August 12, 2007

Butterfly magic for Kaziranga - National park to host international meet of lepidopterists next month


Guwahati, July 13: Though Assam has only 2.64 per cent of India’s landmass, it is home to nearly 50 per cent of the butterflies found in the entire country.

Little wonder, then, that lepidopterists are congregating on Kaziranga, home to the one-horned rhinoceros, for a butterfly conference.

The national park, better known for its rhinos and elephants, will host international and national butterfly experts for the first meet of its kind in the region in early August.

Home to thousands of species of exotic, colourful butterflies — some of them extremely rare — the Northeast is a paradise for butterfly experts.

The Kaziranga meet will network butterfly researchers and aficionados and give them an opportunity to discuss various conservation and research issues.

Organised by Butterfly Northeast, a group of researchers and enthusiasts of the region, the conclave will also enable participants to observe butterflies in the field. The group hopes to make this an annual event.

“The aim is to bring individuals interested in butterfly study and conservation on to a single platform and collate and disseminate information on butterflies in the region. We shall also strengthen the network that will further the study and conservation of butterflies in the state,” said Maan Barua, co-ordinator of Butterfly Northeast.

“A little over 200 species of butterflies have been identified here, but the actual species diversity in Kaziranga is likely to be around 300,” Barua said.

“We are contacting people from Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, who are interested in butterfly conservation, to attend the programme,” Barua added.

Apart from Kaziranga, the Dihing Patkai and Gibbon wildlife sanctuaries are excellent places for spotting butterflies.

One of the many issues to be discussed at the meet is the shortcomings in butterfly study and conservation in the region.

Butterfly study groups have been formed in Bajali College, Pathshala, and in the department of zoology, Margherita College.

Assam is home to some 700 species of butterflies, but largescale habitat deforestation and fragmentation have led to the decline of several butterfly populations in the states.

The network will develop research methodologies to study butterflies across landscapes in Assam and conduct field surveys of butterfly diversity in its main areas. This aims to fill up the gaps in butterfly identification and taxonomy.

The plan is to conduct training programmes in more colleges and institutions so that lepidoptery (or butterfly studies) makes significant progress. It is being hoped that this will result in a functional website on butterflies soon.



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