A little neglect helps butterflies thrive in Bengaluru oasis

Neglect can kill government projects, but when it comes to a piece of forest land in a crowded city, the exit of officialdom helps nature thrive.

Over 124 butterfly species are found in the reserve forest off Bannerghatta Road. —Photo: Sudhakara Jain

A large forest patch in Bengaluru was virtually abandoned by the Forest Department, and it could now become the country’s first Butterfly Conservation Reserve. The lush green environs of the Doraisanipalya Jallary Reserve Forest off Bannerghatta Road have become a hotspot for butterfly diversity after it was ‘reclaimed’.

The 91-acre campus lies incongruously amidst towering IT offices and “forest view” apartments in a busy area. Inside, hundreds of butterflies flit about in their oasis, oblivious to the urban jungle.

Sanjay Mohan, Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Research and Utilisation) says there are 124 butterfly species in the reserve now – or, nearly 40 per cent of the 289 species that are found in Karnataka.

“This is a rare spot, and we want to preserve this habitat as it is, by proposing that it be declared a butterfly conservation reserve,” says Mr. Mohan, who has sent a letter to the Forest Department on this. The proposal will, however, have to be approved by the State Wildlife Board.

From lab to forest
The Reserve Forest houses the Forest Department’s research wing which had, for the past six decades, focussed on growing forest trees for commercial use (trees for the Lac insect or Jallary in Kannada, for instance) and functioned as a trial bed for exotic and non-native species.

Studies end at site
Research work in Doraisanipalya ground to a halt in 2002-03, when its two borewells dried up. Without water, there could be no trials. The vast patch was then returned to nature.

Soon enough, shrubs and weeds proliferated, wild flowers bloomed, and the butterflies came home.

Relatively rare species for Bengaluru, like Spotted Angle, Anomalous Nawab, White-tipped Lineblue are now found here, says Rohit Girotra of the Bangalore Butterfly Club.

Plants and bushes that serve as larval hosts, such as curry leaf shrub, mango, guava, and Indian beech provide a natural environment for butterflies in this oasis.

As an observer of the colourful creatures for five years, Mr. Girotra says an enthusiast would have to travel to Savanadurga, nearly 75 km away, to find comparable forest diversity.

“It is encouraging to see newer species in the Reserve Forest when the surrounding areas are being built over,” he says. Over 250 saplings have been planted this monsoon to attract more species.

About three acres of the forest patch have been given to EMPRI research institute, and another two acres to house Central forest agencies.

Karanataka is the second state after Maharashtra to have a State butterfly, the Southern Bird Wing.