Rare Butterflies - a threatened treasure trove of biodiversity

Written by Meghalaya Times. Posted in December 2012

Staff Reporter
SHILLONG Dec 13: A PhD student trying to document multi-taxa species richness of Jaintia Hills has discovered the occurrence of the Branded Yeoman (Algia fasciata) butterfly at the Narpuh Elaka of Jaintia Hills.
This species of butterfly which was previously reported from Myanmar (Karen Hills southward), Indo-China (Thailand, Laos, Vietnam), SE Asia, and Andaman Islands has been confirmed to occur fairly commonly in the Jaintia Hills.

Rajkamal Goswami, a PhD student from Bangalore working on documentation of primates of Meghalaya first recorded 3 butterflies of this species on November 25, 2011, in Sonapyrdi and subsequently 4 and 3 butterflies on November 26 and 27, 2011, respectively in Malidor. This year too, he has observed at least 5 butterflies of this species in Sonapyrdi between November 3 - 11.
The only previous record of this species from mainland India was based on an isolated sighting reported from Nagaon district of Assam. Dr. Krushnamegh Kunte, one of the topmost authorities on butterflies of India, positively identified the species from the photographs shot by Rajkamal Goswami and confirmed that these sightings extends the range of the species northwestward by approximately 1,000 km, over several mountain ranges.
This new record from Jaintia Hills also gains significance in the light of the fact that the Narpuh Elaka, one of the last ramparts of wilderness in the Khasi-Jaintia Hills, is critically threatened due to ever increasing pressures of mining and state sponsored industrialization, which has threatened not only the fragile natural forest ecosystems but also the quaint and intimate relationship of the indigenous Pnar tribes with these forests.
Rajkamal Goswami feels that the Narpuh Elaka is a haven of natural biodiversity and should be preserved and protected at any cost as any loss would be irreversible as these forests also houses the critically endangered hoolock gibbons, which was listed as one of the 25 most threatened primate in 2009.
He further hoped that such scientific documentation of this extremely neglected region would not only help to leverage support to save these forests from the assault due to mining, but would also attract greater conservation attention at the state, country and global scale.
Till date this researcher has recorded more than 200 butterfly species which includes the rare ones such as the Khasi Dark Archduke, Banded Marquis, Red-spot Sawtooth, Striped Green Palmer, Perak Lascar and the Spotted Zebra Butterfly.