Winged Jewels of Wayanad in search of a Park

Winged Jewels of Wayanad in search of a Park

By H.C. Gera (Bureau Chief)

“Travel can be one of the most rewarding forms introspection”— ‘Lawrence Durre’

Being a Medical Entomologist and a journalist I love my Profession. I know what I love the most is travelling and exploring unexplored areas. Honestly, it all comes from within when I meet and converse with the people of different places. My fascination for the winged jewels of nature has remained right from my childhood.  I came to know from my friends that Wayanad is the perfect place for watching a unique phenomenon about migration and reverse migration of butterflies.  Researchers from various fields of  Biodiversity and Wildlife Science experts say that butterflies are one of the most researched insect groups throughout the world.  Unfortunately, butterflies are facing serious threats of various kinds and in varying degrees in the Wayanad district of Western Ghats. There is an urgent need to explore this unexplored world of butterflies.

I spoke to Mr. Rakesh Om, Managing Committee member KTM and owner of Niramayam Ayurveda Hospital and Mr. Vancheeswaran. K.R, President WTO (Wayanad) Tourism Organization), member Advisory board Kerala Tourism and member Planning Board Tourism about the unique phenomenon of migration and reverse migration of butterflies in Waynad District in Western Ghats.

Unique Experience of migration of butterflies in Nilgiri region

According to Rakesh Om, Managing Committee member KTM, the Western Ghats region of Nilgiri Biosphere especially Wayanad are an excellent natural habitat for more than 200 species of butterflies and moths. To name a few of those, Chocolate pansy, Southern rustic, common Jezbel (Delias eucharis), Palm cupid and Pea Blue butterflies.

Unfortunately the climatic conditions and non availability of nectar plants and larval nests are posing tough challenges for the butterflies to find a breeding ground in Wayanad. Mr. Rakesh Om supported the idea of having a ‘Butterfly Park’ for attracting the butterflies around the region. There is a possibility to collect the data of the endemic species of Western Ghats once a butterfly park is set up based on the scientific cannons and entomological indices of butterflies. Ultimately this will lead to promotion of tourism in the entire region.

Mr. Vancheeswaran K.R. President –WTO, Waynad Tourism Organisation, while expressing his views stated that we need to have technical guidance as to which types of nectar plants are required to attract the butterflies. He is a farmer and a crusader of ecotourism in Wayanad. When specifically asked about the Butterfly park in Wayanad to watch the migration of butterflies Mr. Vanchy replied in affirmative and supported the idea of having a Butterfly Parks for the promotion of Tourism.

Migration of milkweed butterflies a magnificent phenomenon

I had in-depth discussion with two scientists who are vigorously working on the Migration of butterflies since last more than three years. Mr. M.A. Yathumon Coordinator and Mr. P.A. Vinayan, Researcher in charge for ‘Danaine Watch’ by FERNS a nature conservation Society based in Kerala. It is the first citizen science effort in India to tag migrating butterflies. While elaborating further Mr. Vinyan researcher informed about the Milkweed butterflies which are found to be migrating are Dark Blue Tiger, Blue Tiger, Striped Tiger, Glassy Tiger, Common Crow and Double –branded Crow. More than 600 of them were tagged by the volunteers of FERNS in March 2022 during their migration to the eastern plains.

What is Migration and Reverse Migration of Butterflies?

Before the arrival of the Southwest monsoon, the butterflies start their eastwards migration toward the plains of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh states. The westward reverse migration takes place during September – October months from the Eastern part of Southern India to the Western Ghats. The phenomenon coincides with the Northeast Monsoon.  So it can be interpreted that heavy rains could be one of the reasons for the migration of these butterflies besides other valid reason could be the non-availability of breeding grounds during rains.

Butterfly Tags

The Butterfly tags are tiny stickers attached on the underside of hind wings. Each sticker contains a unique ID that helps the researchers to track the location from where the butterflies are tagged. M. A. Yathumon highlighted that butterflies migration maintain the ecology. The butterflies observed during congregation sites in Wayanad during 2019 were over 2 lakhs. But this was declined in the year 2021 to less than 1000. Yathumon also explained that butterflies utilize the congregation path having diverse habitat across the boundaries. Therefore, conservation of migratory sites should be given top priority. When asked from these two scientists about having a Butterfly Park in this region for promotion of tourism to watch this wonderful phenomenon of migration and reverse migration of butterflies, M.A. Yathumon, coordinator and P.A. Vinayan Researcher in charge emphatically said that Kerala Travel Mart Society and Government of Kerala must give a serious thought for having a Butterfly Park in Wayanad for enjoying the beauty of the winged jewels in this region.  This will help not only to promote tourism but will be showcasing another interest for the kids in wild life sciences.

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