Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Rare butterfly sighted after 100 yrs

KOKRAJHAR: Deep within the graveyard of butterflies, there moves a flutter of hope. And the awestruck nature-lover, bewildered at the miraculous triumph, captures a quick moment of the blithe spirits flight for posterity.

Kushal Choudhury, a young lepidopterologist and lecturer at Kokrajhar Science College, has spotted a rare breed of swallowtail butterfly considered extinct at Ultapani Reserve Forest. The jungle, under Haltugaon forest division, is notorious for being the deathbed of hundreds of these winged creatures.

Choudhury, who has been working on a butterfly project since 2002 and is researching on swallowtail butterflies for his PhD since 2008, said, "The Yellow Crested Spangle (Papilio Elephenor Doubleday) was resighted after a long gap of 100 years in Ripu-Chirang Wildlife Sanctuary (RCWS) that extends between 89:554-90:304E and 27:154-26:354N in the Bodoland Territorial Council of western Assam.''

He added, "The sanctuary is a transitional zone between Manas Tiger Reserve in the east and Buxa Tiger Reserve (West Bengal) in the west. It also has strong linkages with Bhutan Biological Conservation Complex as it is located just at the foothills of Phipsu Wildlife Sanctuary and Royal Manas National Park of Bhutan.''

At first, Choudhury believed that it was a mutated spangle butterfly (Papilio protenor) that is similar in size and colour. The yellow markings on the abdomen and the bright yellow head were the most striking and peculiar features of this butterfly. He then circulated the photographs on ButterflyIndia@yahoogroups.com; an e-group for butterfly watchers around the world. It was finally identified and confirmed as the Yellow crested Spangle by Krushnamegh Kunte, post-doctoral research fellow at FAS centre for systems Biology, Harvard University.

"The Yellow Crested Spangle belongs to the Genus Papilio under the family Papilionidae. Papilio elephenor is a highly endangered, federally protected species listed under Schedule I of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, and is placed under the Endangered (EN A1c, B1 2bc) category of the Red Data list of IUCN (Gupta et al, 2005),'' the lepidopterologist said.

The butterfly is also endemic to the eastern Himalayas and northeastern India. Butterfly exeprts like Bingham (1907), Evans (1932) and Winter-Blyth (1957) have described the presence of this butterfly in Assam and Nagaland and Khasi Hills about 100 years ago, but there has been no recent report of its sightings or documentation till now.

Choudhury has also discovered another butterfly, called Moores cupid (Shijimia moorei Leech, 1889, old name Everes moorei). It is a tiny butterfly and its flight is very fast compared to its size. Choudhury said, "It is also an extremely rare butterfly under the Lycaenidae family. It is mainly found in Japan and southern China. Several decades earlier, its presence was reported from Meghalaya's Khasi hills after which, it was not reported from anywhere else in India. This species is also listed in Schedule I of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 and categorized as Critically Endangered (CR A1c, B1 2bc) in the IUCN Red Data list''.


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