Perhaps no organism carries as strong an association with tranquility and beauty than the butterfly. Their aerial displays appeal to both young and old, reflecting light and color in playful disregard. The chance to examine one motionless is rare and inevitably cut short as the wind and sun obscure their escape. Their significance, however, goes beyond aesthetics. Providing food for birds, reptiles, and mammals and pollination for plants, butterflies are crucial members of their environment. That’s why, in 2011, Dilmah Conservation’s butterfly garden took flight.
Over an unused plot at Moratuwa Centre, an oasis in an otherwise commercial outskirt of Colombo, Dilmah Conservation consulted with entomologists and botanists to design the optimal butterfly breeding ground. Butterflies are picky egg-layers and exclusive in their host-plant choice. With this in mind, dozens of plants were selected, each associated with a specific butterfly species. While experts welcomed all lepidopteran newcomers, particular attention was paid to attracting threatened or endangered species. In October of that year, the soil was laid and the plants secured. Researchers and Dilmah Conservation staff could only wait and hope.
Three Cheers for Six Legs!
It’s been almost one year (and 84 plantings) since the project began and the results are extraordinary! Thousands of individual species belonging to thirty-five species have fluttered their way to the urban garden, including several threatened and endangered species as dictated by the International Union on Conservation of Nature (IUCN)! Each month, sighting numbers rise as our micro-ecosystem grows in diversity and self-sustainability. The Grass Demon (Udaspes folus), the blue tiger (Tirumala limniace), and the Indian skipper (Spialia galba) are just three of our new residents!
Defying habitat loss trends observed throughout Sri Lanka, The Moratuwa Butterfly Garden is a big step in the right direction. As butterfly numbers improve, so too do those of their predators. Additionally, butterflies and their larvae help distribute pollen across western Sri Lanka, increasing vegetative land cover and absorbing more CO2. We are hopeful that our success will serve as a model for those passionate about conserving Sri Lanka’s wildlife. To spread the word, we’re using our garden as an educational tool, exposing young students to the program and planting seeds of environmental stewardship in every mind.
Log on to our image gallery to see some more beautiful butterflies found in our Butterfly Garden.
Shared on 6th September 2012