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Around the World, Across the Political Spectrum

Butterflies – Elusive and Extinct, Almost


It is difficult nowadays to spot a butterfly outside of children’s books. The beautiful insect is facing threats of extinction world over. The reason, no doubt, as for all extinct species, is due to the rising human population, rapid urbanization, and dwindling forest cover thus loss of natural habitat for some of the most beautiful species of animals, birds and insects.

Butterflies are delicate and sensitive creatures to breed and save a few initiatives in some parts of the world not much attention is being paid to them. The best of these initiatives are Guembe Butterfly Sanctuary in Santa Cruz, Bolivia; Butterfly Sanctuary in Kuranda, Australia; and a large temperature controlled indoor Butterfly Park in Dubai. There are also several small butterfly gardens in different parts of the world. India also has a few of them. A new one was opened in 2018 in Gurgaon by the Forest Department of India in partnership with an NGO called Utthan.  It is a popular attraction for children and adults alike. The government of India has allotted prime land for another and has allocated a good amount in its budget to save the butterflies of India.

Butterflies require two kinds of plants, one for breeding and the other for habitation. They lay their eggs only on specific plants, chiefly milkweed which is considered a weed and has been uprooted for that purpose. The lack of breeding plants is one of the main reasons for the butterflies’ future extinction. Use of pesticides is also an enemy of butterflies and another reason for their threatened extinction. For feeding, butterflies prefer flowering shrubs and plants like marigold, lilies, asters and poppies from which they derive nectar. Butterflies require somewhat warm tropical habitats and a good forest cover as they cannot stand strong winds. Butterfly gardens are different from sprawling lawns and natural gardens as they provide the requirement of milkweed as a host plant for laying their eggs, some shrubs as cover for protection against wind, and lots of flowering shrubs and plants for their dwelling and feeding. There are several experts who  help guide setting up of butterfly gardens and sanctuaries, but unfortunately, not much focus is being given to this cause. Unless there is widespread public awareness and the generation and incorporation of this as part of schools curriculum, we are only going to see these beautiful insects in picture books. 

The most common of the butterflies are the orange and black ones known as Tiger or Danaus genutia. There are about 17,000 to 19,000 identified species of butterflies in the world. India is home to about 1300 of them. Butterfly populations are decreasing rapidly everywhere though no reasonable estimates exist for the total number. As the ecological balance of the planet is greatly disturbed due to over population and urbanization, butterflies face a loss of habitat and threat of extinction. While sporadic initiatives exist, not enough is being done to save these beautiful and sensitive creatures.

Anuradha Kataria is a writer based in Gurgaon, India and has published several editorials and a book on democracy. She is a graduate in botany and education from Delhi University. She may be contacted at anukat3@gmail.com


Naina Arora, (June 15, 2018), How winged beauties at Thousand Shades Butterfly Park charm Gurugrammers.   HindustanTimes.  Retreived from https://www.hindustantimes.com/gurugram/how-winged-beauties-at-thousand-shades-butterfly-park-charm-gurugrammers/story-ck279JrqbjKQZPrMYH2PjK.html


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