The Telegraph
Wednesday , September 26 , 2012
Since 1st March, 1999
Calcutta Weather
Min : 25.40°C (-1)
Max : 35.00°C (+3)
Rainfall : 0.00 mm
Relative Humidity:
Max : 93.00% Min : 43.00%
Mainly clear sky. Partly cloudy night.
CIMA Gallary

Presi plans a butterfly effect

Presidency University is developing a garden to conserve the city’s diminishing butterfly diversity.

A plot measuring around 25 square metres has been earmarked for the purpose on the playground at the College Street address.

The garden — where butterfly species including the Common Jay, Tailed Jay, Common Mormon, Lime Blue and the Common Silverline would find a home — will be opened by October. The stretch will be covered with nets, said Souryadeep Mukherjee, a teacher of the zoology and molecular biology department, who is overseeing the garden’s development.

“Butterflies are essential for the ecological balance as they help plants to germinate through pollination,” said Mukherjee. “Maintaining a healthy butterfly garden is essential for the conservation of the continuously diminishing butterfly population, under threat because of the exponentially growing human population, habitat fragmentation and urbanisation.”

Mukherjee said the garden will have two sections — a host plant area and a nectar plant area. Butterflies need larval food plants (host plants) on which they lay their eggs and caterpillars feed. Nectar plants are needed to sustain full-grown butterflies.

The department is working with Nature Mates Nature Club, an NGO, in developing the garden.

The NGO will help the department to plant host and nectar plants and to develop a lab under the department to incubate and hatch eggs, rear larvae and maintain a butterfly bank.

“It is essential to have the right host plants to feed larvae and caterpillars. Each variety of larva prefers a specific host plant. Plants like Akanda, Boinchi and Sarpagandha would be planted in the host plant area where butterflies lay eggs. Plants like Rangon and Putus will be planted in the nectar plant area to attract full-grown butterflies,” said Arjan Basu Ray, the secretary of the NGO that developed the butterfly garden in Banabitan, Salt Lake, under the forest department in 2010.

The university’s natural surroundings, which include a wide variety of trees and herbs, already attract butterfly species like the Psyche, Common Albatross, Striped Albatross and the Glassy Tiger, said a teacher in the department.

“Providing a habitat in the form of a garden, rich in nectar and host plants, will help the butterflies to multiply. Larvae of rare variety like the Red Pierrot, Map, Red Mormon, Red Helen, available at Banabitan, will be sourced via the forest department. We want to nurture 25 varieties in our garden,” said the teacher.

The university also plans to appoint a specialist to maintain the garden, said a university official.

“This garden and the laboratory will open new avenues of research in ecology and the behaviour and diversity of butterflies, information on which is rare in the country,” said a zoology student.

Once the garden shapes up, a number of boards with information on the butterflies would be on display in the garden and spread all over the campus, said a university official.

Outsiders, particularly schoolchildren, will be allowed to visit the park. “Our campus is surrounded by schools. We will invite school students to visit the garden, where they could gain information about the significance of butterflies in the ecological cycle,’’ a teacher said.

“In the last council meeting, held on September 1, we took stock of work going on for the development of the garden. Once the garden comes up, it will enhance the beauty of the campus,” said vice-chancellor Malabika Sarkar.