Most beautiful butterfly’s habitat in danger


By Ifham Nizam

One of the most beautiful butterflies in the country, Baronet Euthalia nais, found only in the Nilgala area, particularly in the Gal Oya National Park, is facing a severe threat due to the beedi industry destroying its habitat, says naturalist cum author Rajika Gamage.

Beedi (the poor man’s cigarette) makers destroy thousands of plants, which annually host these magnificent butterflies, to take their leaves for wrapping beedi, he said.

The Island reliably learns that, to make matters worse, Wildlife and Nature Conservation Minister Wijith Wijithamuni Zosya has decided to give away some 300 acres from this area for traditional cultivations. 

Gamage strongly believes that the authorities should reverse such haphazard decisions for the sake of these species that attract thousands of visitors.

Gamage, who had conducted comprehensive studies on butterfly host plants, said that Coromandel Ebony or East Indian Ebony (Diospyros melanoxylon) is a species of flowering tree in the family Ebenaceae that is native to India and Sri Lanka.

Its common name is derived from the coast of southeastern India, Coromandel; locally it is known as kudumberiya or by its Hindi name tendu. In Odisha and Jharkhand it is known as kendu.

The leaves can be wrapped around tobacco to create the beedi.

The bark of the East Indian ebony is hard and dry, and when burnt, produces sparks and sounds.

He also said that the leaf of the tree contains valuable flavones. The pent acyclic trite pines found in leaves possess antimicrobial properties, while the bark shows anti-hyperglycemic activity.

The bark of the four species found here also contains significant anti-plasmodial effects against plasmodium falciparum, which causes malaria in humans.

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