Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Of Rare Birds & Pretty Butterflies

A legally protected butterfly in India, Kaiser-i-Hind (Teinopalpus imperialis) is the State Butterfly of the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh. This beautiful Swallowtail Butterfly was supposedly discovered around Dochu-La Pass, Thimphu by some Japanese Lepidopterologists many years back - a claim sadly not backed by evidence.

In 2021, Sonam Dorji, a driven conservationist doing pioneering work in the area of bird life and their habitat, and butterflies, in the East of the country discovered a dead specimen of the butterfly, in an area called Kheng-Thong Mani - close to Kanglung/Yonphula areas of Trashigang - conclusively proving that Kaiser-i-Hind - Emperor of India - does exist in Bhutan. The specimen is currently lodged at the UWICER, Bumthang. Sonam also observed that during season the butterflies could be seen flying above and around the tree crowns - sadly, just too high for him to photograph them.

Sonam is currently documenting the life cycle of Bhutan’s other rare butterflies - the Ludlow’s Bhutan Swallowtail (Bhutanitis ludlowi) (Bhuan's Naional Butterfly) and the Bhutan Glory (Bhutanitis lidderdalii). By the by, he is also studying the habitats of some of Bhutan’s rare and beautiful birds - the world’s three vulnerable varieties of Tragopans: Satyr Tragopan, Temminck's Tragopan and Blyth's Tragopan.

More than a decade ago, Sumit Sen, one of India’s foremost birders got 38 birders - among them I was one - to short-list 10 of India’s prettiest birds. Thereafter, he put them to open vote. He received a total of 544 votes. I fielded above image of the very pretty Fire-tailed Myzornis captured at Dochu-La in 2007. The bird was adjudged the second most beautiful bird in India.

This bird is one of the few that the lady embroiderer in the East is attempting to replicate on tapestry.

In an effort to educate the local populace on the importance of conservation, Sonam has been encouraging local youth to engage in efforts that help conserve and protect species that are fast disappearing elsewhere in the world. One of the initiatives he has undertaken is to get young talents to reproduce rare species such as butterflies and birds - on tapestry. He has been supported with a small grant from the Bhutan Trust Fund for Environmental Conservation.

My small cash contribution to augment Sonam’s admirable conservation work helped a young lady purchase much needed threads - so that she could practice her skills at embroidery. For a novitiate, the work she produced was pretty remarkable. She sent me her first work - as a gift. In appreciation of her thoughtfulness, I honor her by reproducing her work as part of my Blog’s latest Masthead, above.

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