Moth Biodiversity Assessment Finds Nearly 500 Moth Species At Tale Wildlife Sanctuary


  • It is estimated that 12,000 species of moths are found in India, with at least a few thousand species not described.
  • Moth biodiversity assessments at Tale Wildlife Sanctuary in Arunachal Pradesh, conducted in 2011 and 2019, resulted in a checklist of 497 species of moths, including 17 newly discovered species for which no published records are available. exists in India.
  • Several steps are being taken to protect Tale Wildlife Sanctuary with local eco-development committees and tourism events to promote awareness of rare species in Tale.

Seventeen new species have been added to the Indian Moth Fauna of Tale Wildlife Sanctuary in Arunachal Pradesh, as a result of moth biodiversity assessments that took place over 29 days in during the months of April, May, August and September in 2011 and 2019.

The study, published in July in Tropical Lepidoptera Research, identifies 497 species of moths of which 460 are identified at the species level, while 37 are identified at the genus level. There are 17 species for which no published records exist in India and are additions to the known butterfly fauna of India, and over a hundred species for which no published record exists of the Arunachal Pradesh. More than 200 species still remain to be identified.

Butterfly species Tanaorhinus reciprocata found in Tale Wildlife Sanctuary. Photo by Sanjay Sondhi.

Moths are very diverse organisms and some scientists estimate that there are between 150,000 and 500,000 species of moths in the world. Their colors are either dazzling or so cryptic that they are easily camouflaged with their surroundings. They vary in shapes and sizes. Most moths are nocturnal, while some fly during the day.

The diversity of moths in Arunachal Pradesh has been little studied. According to the study, during the time of the British in India, the best-studied sites in the Himalayan region were around hill stations. Therefore, in northeast India, most historical records of moths are found near cities such as Darjeeling and Shillong. The other areas that were well studied were the Naga Hills and the Khasi Hills. Arunachal Pradesh, without a large mountainous city, has historically been little studied.

“Although there have been publications, there are few detailed assessments of the biodiversity of Arunachal Pradesh’s moths, highlighting the need for scientific collections and biodiversity assessments to document butterfly fauna state night. Many early recordings for India were included in the assessments, ”the study notes.

“The number of moth species in India is estimated to be around 12,000, with at least a few thousand species not described. It is impossible to assess the diversity of moths in Tale, but based on other similar landscapes there should be well over 1,000 species of moths, ”lead author Sanjay Sondhi of Titli Trust told Mongabay -India.

Tale River in the Tale Valley, the core area of ​​the Tale Wildlife Sanctuary. Photo by Sanjay Sondhi.

Arunachal Pradesh has 79.63% of its forested area (Forest Survey of India, 2019) which is home to an unusually high species diversity and many important endemic species, making it an area of ​​biodiversity of global significance. The 337 km² Tale Wildlife Sanctuary (TWS) is located 14 km northeast of Ziro, the seat of the Lower Subansiri district in Arunachal Pradesh. Some of the new species discovered in Tale in recent years are Elcysma ziroensi, Metallophia taleensis, and Metallophia opalina. Elcysma ziroensi commonly known as Apatani Glory was described by a member of the Apatani tribe of Ziro. It is a daytime flying butterfly, and the new species is so far only known from the lower Subansiri district.

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R. Shashank, scientist from the ICAR-Indian Institute of Agricultural Research Entomology Division, who is not associated with the study, told Mongabay-India that the order Lepidoptera, which includes butterflies and moths , has the most common insects of forest ecosystems and agricultural fields. “They are important as suppliers of silk to humans, biological indicators of the ecosystem, and act as pollinators, and also as model organisms for many new research findings,” he said. he declares.

“Although we are aware of the importance of these insects, we hardly document them systematically. If you look at our knowledge of moths, we still depend on British entomologists or contributions from naturalists, ”he said. “Studies such as TWS butterflies by Sondhi et al. (2021) are of immense importance reporting over 450 species identified with 17 new additions to the moth fauna of India. This type of study targeted will be useful for biodiversity assessment and for making conservation decisions for some of the rare species of moths, especially in biodiversity hotspots in the northeast region. It will also be a model for them. other moth workers to track and generate data in other biodiversity hotspots across the country, ”he said.

Pritha Dey of the Center for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, who was not associated with the study, said the study adds to insect inventories, which is crucial for research on the biodiversity and helps plan future research on a regional scale. “The study comes from one of the most biodiverse regions of the country and is an indispensable addition to the wildlife database. With new species reported, this adds to the completeness of the inventory of hyper-diverse butterfly species, which is a huge boost in understanding butterfly diversity in India, ”she said.

Butterfly species Opisthograptis moelleri. Photo by Sanjay Sondhi.

Community conservation and other efforts to protect Tale’s biodiversity

A book on Moths of Tale Wildlife Sanctuary was published last month by Arunachal Pradesh’s chief forest steward, RK Singh in Itanagar. The book authored by Sanjay Sondhi, Koj Rinya and Pratibha Riswadkar covers 400 species of moths recorded in the sanctuary and the authors hope it will be used by the forestry department, nature enthusiasts to identify and study moths, help conserve them and possibly expand the checklist of recorded moths at Tale in the years to come. The book says the high rainfall, fertile soil conditions, and the absence of major disturbances at Tale have contributed to the growth of lush vegetation.

The expanse of the sanctuary of 337 km ² with altitudes ranging from 500 m to more than 2700 m shelters six types of forests. Primary vegetation in the WLS is subtropical deciduous forest, temperate deciduous forest, and temperate conifers. The floral diversity of the area includes oak and rhododendron species, and many bamboo and conifer species such as Tsuga dumosa and Abies densa (Pinaceae). In Tale Valley, conifers grow in the valley, while deciduous forests grow on top of the hills. Due to its rich floral diversity, Tale has an abundance of host and nectar-bearing plants including magnolias, aristolochias and others.

The research team conducting investigations at Tale Wildlife Sanctuary in 2019. Photo by Sanjay Sondhi.

Abhinav Kumar, divisional forestry officer for Tale Valley WLS, said many steps have been taken to protect the sanctuary. He said an anti-poaching squad had been formed by local residents who regularly patrol the area. “The formation of an eco-development committee of Tale from the inhabitants of the neighboring villages was done to promote awareness of butterflies and conservation of moths,” he said and events such as the Ziro Butterfly annual meeting, Ziro Bird Walk are organized in association with local NGOs to promote a wider awareness of rare species in Tale.

Banner image: The Elcysma ziroensis you moth. Photo by Sanjay Sondhi.

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