Friday, May 17, 2013

National Butterfly of India

Last updated: 24th May 2013
[This is work in progress and to be updated soon with more details]

A few years back, I remember discussing with few friends that why don't we have invertebrate taxa as National symbols rather than just having Tiger and Peacock. Recently same topic was raised by some members on ButterflyIndia yahoo group. Over past week or so, many ideas are being shared and discussed.

First thing I did was to take a quick look around, to see if some countries actually have "National Butterflies" designated. I was pleasantly surprised to see that our neighbors Bhutan and Srilanka have done so in recent years.

National Butterflies of Countries

Bhutan Ludlow’s Bhutan Glory (Bhutanitis ludlowi)


Sri Lanka  Sri Lanka Birdwing (Troides darsius)

Source: Wikipedia

Malaysia Rajah Brooke's Birdwing (Trogonoptera brookiana)

Source: Wikipedia

Japan Japanese emperor (Sasakia charonda)

Source: Wikipedia


Costa Rica Blue Morpho (Morpho menelaus) *
Source: Wikipedia

* Source of information doubtful

[If you know of any more, please share the information in comments section and I would update it here.]

As for India, most people seem to agree that we do need a designated National Butterfly. Now the question is what should it be? Very quickly members have started sharing the view and ideas, including candidate species.

Mr Anuj Jain shared his experience with similar process currently in Singapore. 

Mr. Maan Barua has been working on flagship species and has worked on particularly flagships for invertebrate conservation (Barua et. al. 2012) using butterflies. 

Criteria

  • Beautiful / Colorful
  • Common throughout
  • Endemic
  • easy to recognize
  • Conservation status / conservation action

Proposed Species (so far)

  • Kaiser-i-hind (Teinopalpus imperialis
  • Common Mormon (Papilio polytes)
  • Common Rose (Pachliopta aristolochiae)
  • Crimson Rose butterfly (Pachliopta hector)
  • Peacock Royal (Tajuria cippus)
  • Common Jezebel (Delias eucharis)
  • Paris Peacock (Papilio paris)
  • Krishna Peacock (Papilio krishna)
  • Malabar Banded Peacock (Papilio buddha)
  • Blue Nawab (Charaxes schreiber)
  • Southern Birdwing (Troides minos)
  • Blue Pansy (Junonia orithya)
  • Five-bar Swordtail (Graphium antiphates)
  • Blue Mormon (Papilio polymnestor)
  • Yellow Gorgon (Meandrusa payeni)
  • Common Birdwing (Troides helena)
If you have more suggestions on species, criteria for selection or any other suggestions, please leave comment on the blog.

References:
  • Barua, M., Gurdak, D. J., Ahmed, R. A., & Tamuly, J. (2012). Selecting flagships for invertebrate conservation. Biodiversity and Conservation. doi:10.1007/s10531-012-0257-7

18 comments:

  1. I would like to suggest Blue Pansy (Junonia orithya).

    It's beautiful and colorful, common and easy to recognize. Can also be seen in urban ares (e.g. Delhi), which is a big plus, I feel.

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  2. Perhaps Common Jezebel is not such a good choice, due to the unfortunate connotations of the word Jezebel?

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  3. national butterfly of costa rica: blue morpho
    (http://dailycostaricaliving.wordpress.com/tag/costa-rica-national-butterfly/)

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  4. Since Srilanka and Malaysia both have birdwings, perhaps we should stay away from the Southern Birdwing?

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  5. @Sarab Seth, I agree with you about Jezebel and Birdwing options. The peacocks seem to be interesting choices.

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  8. I see- not as straightforward a choice as the national mammal and bird, both of which were widespread Indian stereotypes even before they officially became icons. I don't think being 'common throughout' is a very important criterion. Most Indians (the majority of which aren't in the least interested in butterflies) are quite familiar with common jezebels, pansies and swallowtails like the mormon and the roses and jays, but this clearly hasn't struck a chord in them.(I can't say I share their view though- I remember being deeply fascinated by the tailed jay and its larvae the first time I saw it, while everyone else was indifferent.)
    I think conservation action (along with sheer beauty) needs to be the driving factor here. Everything about the Kaiser-i-Hind, the least of which are its name and mythical status, makes it the most interesting option. Maybe the coverage it will receive if it is the National Butterfly will renew the public's interest in it and its Himalayan forests. After all, if Tibet was a country, and if there was the required evidence, its National animal would definitely be the Abominable Snowman, however rare this may be to spot.
    I think the peacocks, blue nawab and, suggesting another option, malabar tree nymph are also decent choices.

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    Replies
    1. I would like to clarify what I meant when I said that 'being common isn't the most important'. It would definitely be great if we found an icon that was common and glamorous enough to interest the public (like the lotus or the peacock). But when we consider species such as the mormon or the blue pansy, I feel that most people (nature enthusiasts excluded) might consider them too commonplace; they continue to see these species everyday but aren't particularly drawn to them. Also, if such species are selected as the National symbol, it doesn't go beyond a mere title. On other hand, if this National symbol became a Conservation symbol as well, it might translate into concrete action in favor of the species and its forests.

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  9. The dictionary meaning of the Word Pansy is "Coward". We should avoid that for a national butterfly.

    Rohit

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  10. <>
    Not true. Check any dictionary.

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  11. I am a bit surprised not to see the name Blue Mormon among the suggestions.

    This is a large, beautiful, eye-catching butterfly found almost all over India in almost all seasons.

    One can find this in natural habitats as well as urban habitats.

    At the same time it is not too common and every sighting always becomes special.

    I feel this is a good candidate for National Butterfly.

    Ulhas Rane

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  13. Mr. Rane's suggestions are seconded. The Blue Mormon is indeed a might fine candidate for the privilege of being accorded a National Butterfly Species.

    I distinctly remember many a occasion, whether stuck in a Mumbai traffic jam or hiking through the forest, when a flash of Mormon blue has gladdened this naturalist's weary heart.

    Sincerely,
    Javed Ahmed.

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  14. I can give a little nod to Common Jezebel for a different reason altogether... the conservation of this butterfly will eventually lead to conservation of a few more rarer species that depends on the same LHP Loranthus..The Royals, Gaudy Baron, Redspot and Common Jezebel share the same LHP I have reared all of them. The problem is the nature of the parasitic LHP that tends to wipe off the parent tree in a few years with its infection. Now people tend to demolish the Loranthus from their neighbourhood, thereby causing great harm to the conservation of these rare butterflies. Common Jezebel is the butterfly that controls the spread of Loranthus, as the number of caterpillars are more and they feed vociferously on Loranthus leaves. If the name can be tolerated / changed, Common Jezebel can serve as a good choice for National Butterfly and saviour of many of its own kinds.

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