Saturday, November 14, 2009
GANGTOK, November 14: Zoological Scientists involved in butterfly mapping and its conservation in the Eastern Himalayas and the North Eastern States including Sikkim wish to use attractive agents like the butterflies as an ‘umbrella species’ towards combating the global climate change.
With the rediscovery of Scarce Jester (Symbrenthia silana) in Sikkim, 90 years after ‘extinction’ the exercise may not be too daunting. Researcher and scientist, Dr. Krushnamegh Kunte, a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Harvard University had sighted the species with ground coloured black with pale fulvous markings during his trip to Namprikdang in Dzongu, North Sikkim last year as part of the three-year project on ‘Mapping, Monitoring and Butterfly Quantity’ in Eastern Himalayas and North East including Sikkim. The species finds protection under Schedule – I (Part – IV) of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, and subsequent amendments.
This astonishing discovery was revealed by Dr. Kunte today while he was lecturing on the endemic and rare butterflies to the students of Sikkim Government College (SGC) here. Laced with personal experiences and jokes, the scientist from Harvard University in his presentation also discoursed on the behaviour patterns of the insect, its distribution and the need to take steps for its conservation. He was accompanied by one of his team members – Deepa Agashe, also a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Harvard University.
“Although 1300 species of butterflies are recorded in India and 1000 in the Eastern Himalayas, Sikkim alone records somewhere between 500-650 species,” Pune born scientist, who have authored several books before earning a Phd said, while suggesting ‘scientist and zoologist’ as good career options for Sikkim students, where forests and landscapes provides for good learning and researching environment. He added: There are lots of beetles, moths, damselflies etc., besides birds and butterflies within the 7,096 Sq kms in Sikkim and youngsters aspiring to become zoologist and scientists here can make best use of it. Jump into it and create a niche. He pointed out that even the Government of late is spending crores in science and technology.
Dr. Bina Pradhan, HOD, Zoology Department, SGC and Zoology Lecturer, SGC Jigme Lachungpa, who led the students for attending the lecture, said it was interesting for the students as it somewhat related to their syllabus. Such lectures, both the students and teachers say must be conducted regularly. This demand, according to the organizer of the lecture, Usha Lachungpa, senior State Forest official would be kept in mind in future ventures.
As far as the butterfly project is concerned, Dr. Kumte and his team, who are here for the second time, will have to make yet another visit to Sikkim. He hopes to come back next year in June-July – best time for butterfly watching.
In another interesting development, the team has recorded 150-200 species of butterflies only within a period of 15 days that too made in two visits in places like Lachen, Lachung and Namprikdang in North Sikkim, Yuksom in West Sikkim, Legship in South Sikkim and Singtam in East District. Singtam Dr. Kunte added was a good area for butterfly watching.
When asked about the project, he said, their task involves visiting unprotected areas, carry out research using scientific methods and will involve GIS-based potential habitat mapping process. This would thus enable them to locate important areas of conservation, pass it on to State Forest Department, which in turn will prioritise these areas for better conservation. “Such recorded proof may enable the department and the people in general to demarcate areas for conservation and strengthen it accordingly,” chips in Usha Lachungpa.
Moreover, the scientists’ final step in the effort would be using the same as an ‘umbrella species’ in the face of global climate change. Other persons working on butterflies with Dr. Kunte include Ullasa Kodandaramaiah, Rudraprasad Das, Issac Kehimkar, Balakrishnan Valappil, Maan Barua, Kushal Choudhury and Meena Haribal.
The project, it is informed is funded by a range of organisations like the American Philosophical Society, University of Texas, Department of Biotechnology, Government of India and Ministry of Science and Technology among others.
Courtesy: Yishey D