Indian Foundation for Butterflies, or IFoundButterflies, was established during the monsoon of 2009 by a group of professional butterfly biologists, amateur naturalists and other enthusiasts interested in studying and conserving Indian butterflies. It will work towards three main objectives: (1) consolidate available information on Indian butterflies and make it freely available on the website, Butterflies of India, (2) actively collect new information on all aspects of Indian butterflies through research, and (3) communicate this information with policy-makers and work with various governing bodies so that the information will be used to conserve butterfly species and their habitats.
India is host to four globally recognized biodiversity hotspots, and to a large number of butterflies, many of which are endemic and beautiful. Hence, there is tremendous and intensifying interest in Indian butterflies both among lay people and academicians. However, most of the valuable information on Indian butterflies is scattered in old books and journal articles that are not easily accessible. IFoundButterflies aims to gather this information and make it freely available to everyone through various webpages on Butterflies of India.
Much is known about butterflies in India compared to butterflies in many other, less explored tropical areas. However, most of the work on Indian butterflies was done before independence (mainly before 1930s), and very little is known about their current status, distributions and populations. Knowledge about the biology of Indian butterflies has also lagged behind that on many groups of animals, such as birds. Therefore, IFoundButterflies will actively engage in research, and through a network of professional and amateur butterfly biologists/naturalists throughout the country make a concerted effort to advance our understanding of the taxonomy, systematics, ecology, biogeography, behavioral ecology and evolution of Indian butterflies. The new information will first be published in peer-reviewed journals and then incorporated into Butterflies of India. Data on populations and distributions will be made available through the Indian Butterfly Distributions module of Butterflies of India. IFoundButterflies will also offer an online database of reference photographs on Indian butterflies through species pages on this website.
Two aspects of Butterflies of India and the online information and resources made available there are unique and especially important in the context of Indian butterflies. First, all the articles, photographs and other information will be peer-reviewed by members of the Butterfly Biology team or invited reviewers before they appear online. However, anyone can contribute these materials. This open but peer-review model permits Butterflies of India to be an authoritative scientific source, at the same time harnessing the abilities and interests of passionate amateurs. Secondly, the online nature of this resource means that it can be updated regularly, as and when new information is generated. This is in contrast to information in printed books, which often take several years to be revised, if at all. Moreover, our online pages are practically unconstrained by publication costs and can thus aim to be comprehensive.
Generating information is not sufficient in today's world because many butterflies and some of their most important habitats are facing grave threats from human activities. Information should ideally translate into conservation action, although this is rarely achieved. This is mainly because there is a wide communication gap between naturalists and academicians who have the information, and governmental or non-governmental policy-making and implementing bodies that can use the information. IFoundButterflies will work with the national and state Forest Departments, non-governmental organizations and other bodies concerned with nature conservation in bridging this gap.
People uneducated on things natural often exert an unrecognized negative influence on the fate of ecosystems either through excessive resource use or through the neglect of urban and rural ecosystems. Learning from a few success stories (e.g., the Butterfly Conservatory of Goa), IFoundButterflies will also make forays into public education using butterflies as an attractive educational tool. The goal will be: (1) to create awareness among general public about biodiversity conservation issues, (2) to motivate people to minimize their negative impact on nature, and (3) at the same time, promoting nature conservation through local and community initiatives. Apart from direct action where possible, IFoundButterflies will also generate free educational material for children, college students and other people in the form of slide shows, booklets and posters.
The work ahead us is immense and our goals are ambitious. However, we believe that we can accomplish the work and achieve our goals with our commitment, collective motivation, and growing fellowship. Contact us if you are passionate about butterflies and want to be part of IFoundButterflies or the larger venture.