Dilmah Conservation's butterfly gardens initiative is aimed at conserving butterflies and creating urban sanctuaries for learning more about these elusive, delicate creatures that have been subject to various environmental pressures. The butterfly garden at the Moratuwa MJF Centre is presently home to over 50 species of butterfly out of 245 recorded in Sri Lanka.
It became apparent that the preservation of these creatures can be easily pursued by anyone with an interest in doing so, as their presence is often bound to a combination of preferred host and nectar plants. Following the success of this experience, Dilmah Conservation helped establish a butterfly garden in Royal College, Colombo and extends its support to maintaining the garden at Lady Ridgeway Hospital.
More than just a pretty face
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.
Laying Out the Welcome Mat
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, dozensof 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.
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.
The butterfly garden situated at MJF Center in Moratuwa, Sri Lanka has been a great success! Thousands of individuals belonging to nearly fifty species have fluttered their way into the 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!
Following the success of the Moratuwa garden, Dilmah Conservation facilitated the construction of butterfly gardens at Royal College, Colombo, St. Thomas’ College, Mt. Lavania, Lady Ridgeway Hospital, Sri Lanka and Dilmah’s Cape Weligama Resort as well.
To encourage the general public to take part in butterfly conservation and to provide an accessible and comprehensive butterfly identification guide to enthusiasts, Dilmah Conservation also published ‘Common Butterflies of Sri Lanka’ – a field guide containing an overview of over 100 different species including a photo guide to plants that are preferred by specific species.
Further, Dilmah Conservation holds butterfly workshops, lead by Mr. Himesh Jayasinghe, the author of DC’s butterfly publication and an expert on the subject, at the Moratuwa garden. These workshops are open to people of all ages.