Expert lists butterflies - 3-year survey on Sikkim species

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  • Published 1.06.11
A Paris Peacock
A Bhutan Sergeant
Kunte at the presentation in Gangtok on Monday. Picture by Prabin Khaling

Gangtok, May 31: A Pune-based lepideptorist has taken up a project to update the database on butterflies found in Sikkim.

Krushnamegh Kunte, who did his masters degree in wildlife sciences from the Wildlife Institute of India, said according to the records, 650 species of butterflies have been found in Sikkim since the 1850’s.

But most of the data were collected at a time when the territory of the state extended up to Darjeeling in the south and Chumbi Valley in the north. Today the area of Sikkim is smaller and hence the figures need to be updated.

“According to historical records built up from the 1850’s, when the first work to survey the species began, there are around 650 butterflies in this region. There is no systematic data today about how many of them are still found in Sikkim because areas where the butterflies were found previously are not part of the state anymore. One major reason for my research is that I want to come up with an updated figure of how many species are found here,” said Kunte.

The researcher, who is a postdoctoral fellow with the FAS Centre for Systems Biology in Harvard University and the president of the Indian Foundation for Butterflies, finished a month-long survey recently.

The project was part of the three-year study that he intends to complete by 2013.

“We want to do a habitat mapping and population census which will be very handy for the state forest department for conservation and management plans,” said Kunte.

The researcher shared the findings of the survey with members of the Sikkim Ornithological Society and the Travel Agents’ Association of Sikkim in Gangtok yesterday.

Kunte showed the participants several pictures taken by the members of his team who went to Rolep and Rongli in the East district, Pabung Khola in the South district, Dentam in the West and Dzongu in the North district.

Around 200 species were found during the survey. The team spotted several highly endangered species listed in the Schedule I and II of the Wildlife Protection Act during the trip and some of them were the Scarce Jester, Eastern Courtier, Bhutan sergeant, Krishna Peacock and Scarce White Commodore.

“Eco-tourism and the concept of homestays can be promoted for conservation of butterflies and other wildlife species. Once the local community starts benefiting from tourists who come to see these species, naturally they will protect the wildlife species found in their surroundings,” he said.

Usha Lachungpa, senior research officer (wildlife) of the forest department, said the survey would be of great help as the government needs updated information.

“It will help us in habitat mapping and forest management,” she said.