It is a therapeutic experience to walk around on cobbled garden walkways while admiring a thriving population of flora and fauna. Butterfly gardening, an initiative that helps rejuvenate the butterfly population of a specific region, is a noble way of allowing biodiversity to thrive. Be it their colourful fluttering wings or their silent song of benevolence, butterflies are always charming and fascinating to look at. Set up in a dome-shaped enclosure, the Butterfly Garden at Eco Park is a salient reminder of how nature should be respected and preserved to help maintain an ecological balance.
Providing a green escape to the people of Kolkata, Eco Park at Newtown has brought in various cherishable experiences. From setting up replicas of the Seven Wonders of the World to an Oriental Odyssey at the Japanese Garden, Eco Park has something on offer to match everyone’s interests. The Butterfly Garden, set up on a 3-acre plot near Gate No. 4 of Eco Park around a circular water body, is a major attraction that gets many visitors daily. Home to native species of wild flowering plants that are finding it hard to survive under the rapid spread of urbanisation, the Butterfly Garden is replete with natural colours. From brightly-coloured sunflowers to China Roses, Blanket Flowers, and Rosy Periwinkles, there’s vibrancy in the atmosphere inside the park. These native and indigenous flowering plants are species that the butterflies associate with as host plants or nectar plants and thus are a vital cog in maintaining the overall ecosystem.
Maintaining the Ecosystem
Funded by HIDCO and looked after by Nature Mates, the Butterfly Garden also houses a laboratory wherein extensive research work is carried out on the life-cycle of a butterfly by a five-member team. According to Sarika, a researcher associated with Nature Mates, the butterfly conservation programme has helped them in understanding the local ecosystem to a great extent, “We often talk about saving the larger species of animals but for an ecosystem to thrive, animals occupying the lower energy levels are equally important. While researching on the butterflies, not only have we been able to understand which plants these beautiful creatures prefer, but we have also seen how butterflies attract odonate and other predatory insects which in turn attracts a large number of birds who prey on these insects. The understanding of this cycle has been of great help in our study of the local ecosystem.”
Butterflies are found abundantly throughout the world. From the top of mountains, to deserts and rainforests, there are roughly 20,000 species of butterflies. The life-cycle of a butterfly has four distinct stages. Butterflies generally lay eggs on leaves from which caterpillars hatch. To transform into a butterfly, caterpillars need to amass a lot of energy which they do through eating. Generally nibbling on leaves, caterpillars grow almost four times their original body size before transforming into a chrysalis or pupa.
A pupa takes on the colour of things around it which is a camouflaging technique to protect itself from predators. Once inside the pupa, the body shape of a caterpillar starts to change before evolving into a butterfly and breaking out of the pupa. Inside the Butterfly Garden in Eco Park, Common Crow, Striped Tiger, Lemon Emigrant, Indian Jezebel, Blue Tiger and Plains Cupid species of butterflies are found in abundance. The best part about visiting the Butterfly Garden is the fact that one can expect to see the entire life-cycle of a butterfly while closely understanding their behavioural patterns. The months of March, April, May and September, October, November are ideal for butterfly watching but one must visit during the daytime as butterflies are extremely dependent on sunlight.
A new experience
To protect the delicate ecosystem, visitors at the Butterfly Garden are asked not to touch the butterflies or the plants. Butterflies are extremely sensitive to light and are diurnal which means they are most active during the day and sleep during the night. Thus the Butterfly Garden remains closed for visitors after 5 pm. After 6 pm all artificial lights inside the garden are turned off.
To get visitors excited and to bring in more people to the Butterfly Garden, HIDCO organises a recreational butterfly-releasing event. Visitors can release a newly-metamorphosed butterfly in the air against a nominal participation fee and their pictures are uploaded on the Butterfly Garden Facebook Page.
It is indeed heart-warming to see a dedicated team of researchers doing their best for the various indigenous species of butterflies and flowering plants to survive. The advent of highrises and the increasing light pollution in the city has had an adverse effect on the lower levels of the ecosystem resulting in dwindling numbers of small insects and birds. To protect these species we have to consciously come together. Credit is due to HIDCO for funding the research and maintaining the unique aesthetic appeal of the Butterfly Garden and of Eco Park.
Eco Tourism park, new town
Entry: Gate Number 4
Timing: 2:30 pm – 5 pm
Eco Park Ticket: Rs 30
No separate entry ticket for Butterfly Garden
Butterfly-Release Event: Rs 70