Himachal Pradesh to get India’s second butterfly park

October 20th, 2008 - 11:41 am ICT by IANS  

Shimla, Oct 20 (IANS) Himachal Pradesh, known for its delicious apples, a World Heritage railway and picture perfect tourist spots, is to get a Rs.60-million ($1.2-million)butterfly park to help in the conservation of the winged wonders and bring them closer to nature lovers.Preliminary work on the park, located some 15 km from this state capital and close to where the Kalka-Shimla World Heritage train chugs its way up, has already begun and it is likely to become operational within a year after the funds come through.

The park would be based on the country’s first butterfly park at the Bannerghatta National Park in Karnataka.

“The butterfly park will not only improve their numbers but also bring the common man closer to nature,” entomologist H.S. Mehta, who has been studying butterflies for the past 25 years, told IANS.

“The park will give the public an opportunity to understand the importance of these bio-indicators. It will also serve as a laboratory for studying lepidoptera (an order of insect that includes butterflies and moths) and their conservation,” added Mehta, who is additional director of the Solan-based High Altitude Zoology Field Station of the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI).

Of the 1,439 species of butterflies that have been reported in India, 300 have been recorded by the ZSI in Himachal Pradesh alone.

Interestingly, the ZSI has recorded 14 species of butterflies even in the Pin Valley National Park in the cold desert of Lahaul and Spiti district.

“Spread over an area of 4.2 hectares, the butterfly park will have a conservatory, a museum and a nature park. Butterflies reared in the park under controlled conditions will later be released in surrounding areas,” said Nagin Nanda, secretary of the Himachal Pradesh Council for Science, Technology and Environment.

The council has approached the union ministry of environment and forests for funds, largely meant for the conservatory and museum.

“The ZSI has a large collection of specimens of butterflies and moths that can be displayed in the museum,” Mehta pointed out.

Like other species, the butterfly population is also declining. Habitat loss, pollution, deforestation and spraying of herbicides and pesticides have put some butterfly species in the “vulnerable” category of the Red Data Book - a compendium of species facing extinction.

According to Mehta, a number of butterfly species are threatened due to the destruction of their host plants.

“The decline in population is not restricted to any specific area but is a widespread phenomenon. The ripping out of shrubs like lantana and hibiscus has put them in danger,” the entomologist pointed out.

According to Mehta, butterfly farming, which is quite popular in the US, Australia and Britain, has played an important role not only in conservation but also in providing employment as a cottage industry.

The literal meaning of Himachal Pradesh is “Region of snowy mountains”. It has one of the highest per capita incomes of any state in India. Due to the abundance of perennial rivers, Himachal Pradesh also sells hydroelectricity to states such as Delhi, Punjab and Rajasthan.

Himachal’s economy is highly dependent on three sources: hydroelectric power, tourism and agriculture.

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