As dawn breaks, Parambikulam Tiger Reserve, one of India’s protected forest areas, turns a garden with dream flowers floating all over. The sight repeats as dusk falls in. Wafer thin canvases bearing a splash of colours flutter all around, filling the reserve with a splendour that matches the aura of a forest full of butterflies.
A recent survey held in the reserve spotted 221 varieties of butterflies, 11 of which were endemic to the area.
With such a rich spread, the reserve could also hit spotlight as a haven of butterflies.
The survey, initiated jointly by the Department of Forest and Wildlife, Parambikulam Tiger Conservation Foundation, and the Wayanad-based Ferns Naturalists Society, was held between November 9 and 12.
Sixty experts and 50 forest protection staff participated in the survey in the reserve.
According to butterfly expert V.K. Chandrasekharan, the major species spotted during the four-day initiative include Small Palm Bob, Silverstreak Blue, Orange-tail Awl, and Red-disc Bushbrown. Among them, Orange-tail Awl gets active only during early morning hours and late in the evening.
The survey was held in different topographies and forest areas, including evergreen forests, dry deciduous forests, moist deciduous forests, shrubs and meadows, which lie in areas such as Aanapanthi, Parambikulam, Kuriarkutty and Nelliampathy.
Seventeen separate camps were arranged in these areas to ensure comprehensive surveying.
“One of the biggest surprises of the survey is the spotting of Red-disc Bushbrown, a high-altitude species endemic to Western Ghats. We found them in an area of Nelliampathy region at an altitude of 1,320 m. It would be difficult to spot them in any part further north of Western Ghats,” said Mr Chandrasekharan.
The survey team had also recorded migration patterns of the rare species — Dark Blue Tiger and Common Crow.
Buddha Peacock or Buddha Mayoori, which was recently declared as State butterfly of Kerala, was found in abundance in some areas of the forest. The survey had also recorded over 100 butterfly host plants in the reserve.
The survey team included members of the Travancore Natural History Society, Malabar Natural History Society, and students of Kerala Veterinary and Animal Sciences University in Wayanad.
This is the fourth consecutive year that the butterfly survey is being organised in Parambikulam.
Involvement of tribes
A pioneer in community-based ecotourism, Parambikulam tries to ensure foolproof conservation with the active involvement of 234 members of six tribal settlements inside its limits. The reserve has many firsts to its credit, made possible through the participation of tribespeople.
Being a protected forest area, the reserve has nearly five endemic flora varieties and has had 29 direct sightings of tigers. Ever since the Joint Forest Participatory Management was introduced, there have been no incidents of poaching in the reserve.