Alka Gadgil examines ways to conserve mangroves and preserve butterflies
Butterflies evoke many emotions in us – of love, elegance and splendor. The unique designs they wear on their wings are not only fascinating, but therapeutic in many ways. No wonder 20-year-old Swarali Gogate from Devgad Taluka in the Sindhudurga district of Maharashtram found his calling in these colorful flies.
Swarali is currently studying a BSc in Zoology at Abasaheb Garware College in Pune. After the Covid-19 epidemic in the country in March 2020, his college, following national confinement, announced a closure for an indefinite period. Swarali had to go home and after a few days of rest, she felt the urge to tread the mangroves around her village. She sought advice from her college professor, Dr Anand Padhye, who encouraged her to study butterflies.
“Our approach to development has trampled our biodiversity. The Covid-19 pandemic has been a boon for flora and fauna, but with the tightening of the lockdown, the harmful impacts are once again visible, ”explains Swarali.
After noticing the fall of butterflies due to the cutting of trees and shrubs for the construction of roads and buildings, Swarali took action. When she notices caterpillar larvae on a tree branch, she brings the branch home to feed her. It has preserved hundreds of caterpillars since the first containment. She also documented the journey of these flies from rearing the larva to its transformation into a butterfly. So far, she has retained the flies belonging to the Common Mormon, Lime Butterfly, Tailed Jay, and Common Jay species.
During the pandemic, her butterfly project aroused the curiosity of young people in her community and surrounding areas. Anyone who has observed its conservation of butterflies has been amazed at the stages in a butterfly’s life cycle. “How can such a big butterfly fit in such a small cell?” They wondered. Inspired by his work, they promised not to remove larvae from trees and to refrain from spraying pesticides.
Swarali, even as a child, had an immense curiosity and an interest in flora and fauna. While most of the kids in her village were interested in cartoons, she watched Animal Planet. As a child, she wondered when would she be able to see these animals? How did they live? How did they behave? What is their relationship with the environment?
“To help find answers to my childhood curiosity, I joined a course organized by the Pune Institute for Natural History Education and Research, which helped me a lot. There are tiny microorganisms in the water, and they too have diversity. I became familiar with taxonomy which is a science of classifying, identifying and naming species, ”Swarali said.
There were mangroves and wetlands around the stream near his home in Devgad. A few villages in the region did not have direct access to the mainland. The supply of cooking gas cylinders was a serious issue as it was difficult to transport a cylinder to remote locations. As a result, people depended on firewood and cut trees. To solve the problem, a bridge over the creek was built. This has disrupted the mangrove ecosystems. The streams of the stream separated because of the heavy pillars impacting the shrimp and prawns. These fish procreate in wetlands and destruction has impacted the entire ecosystem.
Swarali has focused its research in this area. Along with the study of flora and fauna, she also studied the diversity of insects and birds around the mangroves of Devgad. She also conducted a study on three-legged insects and animals and recorded around 125 types of birds as well as insects and flies.
For the conservation of mangroves, efforts are being made at the state level. For example, mangroves are recreated near water bodies by planting seeds of mangrove plants. In many parts of the world, recreated mangroves have shown a positive impact on biodiversity, increased productivity, improved water quality as well as reduced total organic carbon. Although development has an impact on ecosystems and people’s livelihoods, there are ways to mitigate the losses. Self-help groups in the Devgad block have started a mangrove seedling nursery in partnership with the Mangrove Unit of the Government of Maharashtra.
Local youth, inspired by Swarali’s efforts, began to take an interest in reimaging a lost ecosystem and began to participate in wetland conservation work. Swarali’s passion inspires, and it reminds us of a line from Robert Frost’s poem, “Butterflys… flowers that fly and all but sing”.
—Features of Charkha