Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Wings of change

Jalaji Ramanunni July 31, 2008

Remember the little girl from Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses—covered from head to foot with butterflies such that she looked like she was clothed in their gold and silver dust?

The closest you can come to understanding what that feels like is inside the newly-opened Butterfly Dome at Bannerghatta National Park. Set up in 2007, the park has only now become functional.

As you enter, you could well wonder at the leaves flying all around you. Then you notice them fluttering their wings, one of the defence mechanisms butterflies use to deal with predators. In fact, as we found out, their appearance has a lot to do with their survival.

You can learn this, and more, at the Butterfly Park, spread over 7.5 acres of land. It comprises a butterfly conservatory, a museum and an audio-visual room.

The dome is a circular enclosure, with a butterfly-shaped gate, in which the living environment has been carefully designed to suit the insects’ lifestyle.

It has an artificial waterfall, host plants that attract these butterflies, and a humid climate, creating a tropical environment. It connects you to another dome which exhibits different kinds of butterflies, and the various stages in their lives. The park is filled with a host plants that butterflies can feed on.

Entry to the labs, where butterflies are bred, is restricted. Some butterflies are chosen and freed into the dome for a few days. The park is home to nearly 20 different species including endangered species like Crimson rose and Blue mormon.

Enthusiasts at the Butterfly Park museum
Enthusiasts at the Butterfly Park museum
“Butterflies are most active on warm and sunny days. They are very sensitive to temperature. The heat of the sun helps in digesting their food well. When it rains, they hide in flowers and leaves,” says Rupali G. Kulkarni, an entomologist here.

“If you wear light or bright coloured clothes with floral patterns, the butterflies get fooled and might land on you. But their wings get damaged if you touch them.”

More than 100 species of the Indian butterfly are said to be under threat. They fall prey to rampant butterfly smuggling because of their decorative qualities. These are issues often discussed by the online community—butterflyindia. The Bangalore wing of the group often meets up at the Butterfly Park in Bangalore, while simultaneous meets are held in Kolkata.

Vidya Rao, a member of the Bangalore Butterfly Club, remembers her earlier experiences watching butterflies, something that got her interested enough to do a course in entomology.

This endeavour to create a special habitat for butterflies is a first of its kind in India. Although not too many people in Bangalore are aware of its existence, the park is already a big hit with children. To get in touch with Vidya Rao visit the website www.ecoorgsindia.


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Monday, August 04, 2008

Gautami Express fire: Search on for Google couple

HYDERABAD/WARANGAL: Amidst the charred bogies , heaps of skulls and bones and grieving passengers , M S Ashok continued to search for his friends who travelled with him in the ill-fated S-10 bogie. And till late on Friday night, there was no trace of his friends-Roshni Mukherjee (26) and Hari Shankar (28).

Ashok, Roshni and Hari, who are employees of Google India Private Ltd in Hyderabad, were headed to Kakinada on a weekend trip. "We are extremely fond of bird-watching and we thought we would catch some birds in flight in the backwaters of Kakinada," Ashok told 'TOI.'

Saying that they shared seat numbers 2, 3 and 6 in S-10 coach, Ashok says he doesn't how he escaped from the blazing train. "It was pitch dark when I woke up because of commotion in the bogie as a thick smoke enveloped us by then. I remotely remember being pushed off the train by some passengers. As I looked around for Roshni and Hari, they weren't there," says a weeping Ashok.

He says the enormity of the tragedy was best reflected in the badly-mangled S-10 coach. "I am devastated as I haven't been able to trace them yet. Despite sounding the railway authorities , they are also askance as to what happened to the husband-wife duo, "Ashok said.

The couple's colleagues in Google said that Roshni and Hari have been enthusiasts of wildlife photography for a long time. "Whenever they get time, they used to go off on tours trying to explore new vistas in wildlife. They were also deep into ornithology," a colleague recalled. "They both sport tattoos, which should help the authorities in identifying them. But I am fearing the worst," she said.

Sources said Roshni, belonging to Kolkata, did her MA from English and Foreign Languages University (Eflu) and joined Google two years ago in its online advertisement wing. Hari, a Tamilian, joined the technical department twoand-a-half years ago. "They got married just last year," a friend revealed.

Do visit their website


Friday, August 01, 2008

New butterfly species discovered

C.K. Chandramohan

DEHRA DUN: A new butterfly species named “Garhwal Six Ring” is claimed to have been discovered in the forests of the Kedarnath Musk Deer Sanctuary in Chamoli district of Uttarakhand by Arun Pratap Singh of the Forest Research Institute here.

The scientific name of the species is Ypthima kedarnathensis.

According to Dr. Arun Pratap Singh, initial observations indicate that the species is a rare one with a small population and distribution and more research is required to ascertain its exact status, ecological needs and characteristics.

This is said to be the first discovery of a butterfly species in several decades.

Long ago the British did pioneering research on butterflies in the western Himalayan region and discovered and described most of the species.

The forest where the Garhwal Six Ring has been discovered is regarded as the bio-diversity hot spot of Garhwal Himalayas. More than 450 species of plants are found here.

During the latest survey, 140 species of butterflies and 260 species of birds including the rare Satyr Tragopan were recorded at the sanctuary, Dr. Singh said.

Rare sightings

The sightings also include a rare butterfly species, the Brown Gorgon, and a bird, the White-tailed Blue Robin, known to be found till now from North-East India to South-East Asia.

The presence of north-eastern fauna in the forests near Mandal village, besides high bio-diversity, points to its being a “unique habitat” in the western Himalayan region that needs to be conserved.


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