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| Last Updated:: 06/11/2015

India is counting its butterflies for the first time since Independence






India finally has its first comprehensive catalogue of butterflies since 1947.


Peter Smetacek, a scientist at the Butterfly Research Centre at Bhimtal, in the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand, spent years putting together a synoptic list of the 1,318 species found across the country. The exercise is not only to document the variety of butterflies in India, but to help save India’s rivers—a cause that Smetacek has been championing.


“We have been trying to analyse the health of the forest using the insect community there and that is why the catalogue is important because you must know what is where,” Smetacek explained. To do this, scientists first must clarify the taxonomy of various species and then ascertain what a forest contains. “We did that with butterflies and we will move on to moths,” he said. “In due course, we will have a map of different types of community structures in different parts of India, especially in the headwaters of rivers.”


The eventual goal, the butterfly expert said, is to charge forest departments with maintaining or monitoring populations of insects, birds or other bio-indicators that tell us about the health of the forest at headwaters. Acting on the basis of such ecological information, experts could act to stabilise the flow of rivers so that it can really ensure our water security.




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