Borivli's Sanjay Gandhi National Park: A haven for dazzling butterflies

  • Badri Chatterjee, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: Feb 23, 2015 18:01 IST

The Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP), Borivli, offers a much welcome respite and a window to some of the simplest pleasures that life has to offer — butterflies. A recent study conducted by the park management has discovered that it is home to nearly 172 species of butterflies. The study further states that the entire United Kingdom has only 60 species of butterflies.

The management of SGNP has come out with a booklet that puts forward a photographic guide to nearly 100 uncommon butterflies, which visitors are most likely to encounter at the national park.

“Butterfly watching is a much sought-after hobby. We want to draw the attention of Mumbaiites to their very own backyard and make sure they come to witness such beautiful creatures,” said Vikas Gupta, director and chief conservator of SGNP.

The butterfly world at SGNP is a captivating sphere with butterflies of various sizes and colours. The stunning Blue Mormon, the artist of camouflage or the Blue Oak leaf, dazzling Jezebels and Large Yellow and White Orange tips, Monarchs and Sailors are some of the many attractive butterflies one can spot at the national park.

Rajendra Ovalekar, a school teacher and a butterfly enthusiast, who decided to convert his two acres of agricultural land in Thane into a butterfly garden, claims that butterflies can be generally spotted around fruit-bearing trees, since plants with nectar are the best hosts for these tiny creatures.

“Butterflies are generally concentrated around a few moist and shady spots within the forest. The mangroves and their land and sea interface is the most preferred spots for some and the best months to spot them are from September to January,” said Ovalekar

Butterflies undergo complete metamorphosis through four life stages: egg, caterpillar, pupa and adult. The egg is often laid on a leaf. The larva or caterpillar that hatches from this egg eats leaves or flowers almost constantly and sheds its old skin many times as it grows. The size of the caterpillar increases many times over until it is ready for the pupal stage — the caterpillar attaches itself to a twig and forms a hard outer skin, inside the pupa, the caterpillar changes into a butterfly completing all the stages and ready to continue the cycle.

While speaking to HT about the unique way in which butterflies are bred in and around SGNP and his own butterfly garden in Thane, Ovalekar said, “We keep plates of fruits or fruit nectar near host plants. Butterflies accumulate near l ime, coconut, banana and kadi pata plants where they lay eggs. Blue, Common Mormons, Common Rose and Common Palm fly are a few very rare species found here.”

A statement by World Wildlife Fund (WWF) claims the popularity of butterfly study has provided a data resource on an insect group unmatched in geographical and time scale. This is important for research on climate change.

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