A two day butterfly survey in Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary concluded with interesting records. The survey was organized as a joint venture by Kerala Forest Department ,Kottyam Nature Society and Travancore Natural History Society, Thiruvananthapuram. The delegates met at Munnar where the survey methodology was planned. The survey will be done for an year or more, monthly utilizing the experts and tribal Eco Development Committee members of Chinnar WLS.

Wildlife Warden of Munnar Mr. G.Prasad put forward the concept of Butterfly calander. Prof. E.Kunhikrishnan, Dr Kalesh. S, Toms Augustine and Dr Jinesh PS, were the captains of the survey conducted on March 7 and 8th, 2015.

The participants were taken to 5 base camps namely Olikudi, Mangapara, Alampetty, Churulipetty and Champakkad. They surveyed and tracked butterflies meticulously for two days. All the altitudes from 500-2000m were covered and it included all the vegetation and habitats.  A total of 167 species were observed and on analysis 46 species were added newly to the checklist of Chinnar, thus the total number of butterflies became 200. The earlier check list was prepared only in 2002.

The noteworthy findings are the Palani or Davison’s Bushbrown which is an endemic butterfly seen only in and around the Palani hills. This grassland species was recorded at Puthukudy region. “This rarity was photographed only once in last 100 years”, said Prof.Kunhikrishnann, who has earlier seen it and documented it in the sanctuary many years ago. The largest butterfly in India The Southern Birdwing was seen in Chinnar and the smallest butterfly The Grass Jewel was recorded at Thoovanam.

“The survey also rediscovered the Palni Dart, an uncommon skipper butterfly of Palni region which is an addition to the Kerala butterfly checklist”, said Dr. Kalesh, an expert on Hesperiidae butterflies and a practicing Surgeon.

Other important sightings reported areTravancore Evening Brown, Maculate Lancer,Malabar Rose, Indian Awlking, Orange tailed awl, Orange awlet, Vindhyan Bob and  the Spot puffin. Migration of Common Albatross, Plain Puffins, Emigrants, Common Crow, Double Branded Crow and Blue tigers were noted from Eravikulam region towards Chinnar, while directional movement was observed for Pioneers and Gulls uphill.

Assistant Wildlife Warden Chinnar Shri .N.C Sibin and Forest staff of Chinnar  done the supervision of the field duty . Around 20 experts from various parts of the country participated in the event along with butterfly enthusiasts and Tribal Watchers of Chinnar.  Participants included representatives from Banglore Butterfly Club, NCBS and other research institutions. Ashok Sengupta, Firoz A.K, Nithin Ravikanth, Kiran Marathe, Baiju.K Charan.H, led the camps along with Toms Augustine and Dr Kalesh. A formal report will be submitted to the Forest Department Soon.

“These kinds of systematic surveys are needed to document the faunal diversity of lesser known region and the data gathered will be used for the preparation of the Butterfly Calendar”. The tribal treckers are now getting educated due to the monthly survey, and this will help in the dissemination of  knowledge to the tourists who visit the park as part of community based eco tourism programmes.

Photos: Dr. Kalesh S