UWICE Researchers discover possibility of new Butterfly species

The Research team from Ugyen Wangchuk Institute for Conservation and Environment (UWICE) while surveying the diversity of butterflies in Bhutan sighted rare butterflies existing in Tingtibi and Gongphu provinces in Manas.

The team was surveying to study the habitat while documenting records by taking pictures of the butterflies randomly in Manas around July and August this year. The new species recorded by the research team is not recorded or found in any guidebook or literature. This is just after the rediscovery of Tree Brown few months ago which was recognized as rare and endemic in Bhutan.

The recent discovery by the UWICE research team is a rare butterfly from the lethe family and its presence was known lately in sub-tropical forest below 800 to 1200 meters above sea level.

“It was a mere chance sighting,” said Karma Wangdi one of the research team member from UWICE who captured the photo of the rare butterfly. He said that such butterflies might be very rare in Bhutan.  This is attributed to the fact that it wasn’t pictured before when so many researchers explored the same area.

The team was in Manas vicinity this July and August collecting data on Butterflies of Bhutan when they sighted the peculiar butterfly of a lethe family in the area.

Karma Wangdi said that this chance sighting makes it a very important record for the purpose of butterfly conservation and could prove to be a good reason for its inclusion in the Schedule List of Butterflies in Forest and Nature Conservation Act of Bhutan as works are ongoing for revision of Schedule list.

Three butterfly specialists from Italy who are in close contact with UWICE are yet to confirm the new species captured by the team and the specimen of those butterflies are being solicited by the expert which the UWICE is yet to decide on.

The team shared that Bhutan having no technology to study the confirmation of any suspicions of such rare species is a setback to list such species under a new discovery.

UWICE Researcher Karma Wangdi also said that confirming it as a new species will be a new record for Bhutan and “It actually elevates the importance of biological diversity in Bhutan despite being a very small country”.

Experts in Bhutan feel that when biodiversity conservation is carried out one of the priority activities is to look at endemism. But the UWICE researchers said “we need to do little bit of ground work to source out where this species was first described from”. This is because literature says that the butterfly is endemic to Bhutan, Sikkim and Northern Myanmar.The rare butterflies are believed to be found in a small pocket in the certain area just like Ludlow’s Bhutan Glory. The rare butterflies had found a similar habitat in other parts of the Country.

Karma Wangdi said that such butterflies are likely to be found in other places which have a similar climatic condition. A Butterfly is also said to be the indicator of how healthy and functional the ecosystem is. This is because they depend on a particular habitat which means they are considered to be a habitat specialist requiring aset of habitat component to thrive on. So, the butterfly has been put by ecosystem analyzers as an indication of a healthy ecosystem.

Bhutan is currently affluent with around 900 species of butterflies.

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