Itanagar: A rare sub-species of butterfly has been discovered by two scientists at Eaglenest Wildlife Sanctuary in West Kameng district of Arunachal Pradesh, much to the delight of in the country.
Sanjoy Sondhi and Purnendu Roy, the scientists working at Dehradun-based Titli Trust, a non-profit body working for conservation of nature, spotted the butterfly in April, last year.
However, the official confirmation came only in the latter part of August this year when the Journal of Threatened Taxa, an international peer-reviewed periodical, published the two Indian naturalists` report.
The Tibetan Brimstone, a butterfly sub-species seen just once before in history, that too in China-occupied Tibet region by British naturalist Frank Ludlow in 1938, has thrilled Indian naturalists.
Sondhi and Roy, who have been extensively researching butterflies and moths in the Northeast for years, were jubilant at the discovery, considering the fact that the butterfly sub-species was seen in India for the first time.
Tibetan Brimstone (Gonepteryx amintha thibetana nekrutenko), the winged visitor from neighbouring China, is pale yellowish green in colour that gives it the look of a leaf.
The impression accentuated by the vein-like ridges running across its sail-shaped body.
"It`s discovery came close on the heels of another unexpected butterfly sighting at Eaglenest last year, which is Bhutan?s national butterfly. The sighting at Eaglenest busted the myth that Ludlow?s Bhutan Glory exists only in the country after which it is named," Sondhi told PTI.
"Arunachal, especially Eaglenest, is a rich biodiversity zone and probably many more species of butterflies and birds are waiting to be discovered there," Sondhi said.
The scientists recorded three butterflies in the Sanctuary in April, 2012. The butterfly species had also been seen, but not reported, by Purnendu Roy at Anini in Upper Dibang Valley district, in July 1987.
The butterfly has an interesting history: Ludlow collected this butterfly at Lalung, Pachakshiri in 1938.
In 1968, Yuri Nekrutenko, a Russian lepidopterist, who passed away in 2010, based on Ludlow’s butterfly collection, described this butterfly to be a new sub-species, which he named Gonepteryx amintha thibetana.
However, the location at which the butterfly was collected by Ludlow was thought to be in Tibet.
Pachakshiri, where the butterfly was collected, is today known as Mechuka and is a region located on the upper tributaries of the Siyom River in West Siang district of Arunachal Pradesh, Sondhi said.
This finding follows the discovery of the Ludlow’s Bhutan Glory (Bhutanitis ludlowi) from Eaglenest and Dirang in West Kameng district, in 2012.
The Bhutan Glory was known only from one location in Bhutan before its discovery from Eaglenest and Dirang. "It was at Eaglenest that a new bird species, Bugun liocichla, was discovered in 2006. Only seven pairs of the species were found," Sondhi disclosed.
With steep ridges, streams and vibrant waterfalls, the historic Eaglenest Wildlife Sanctuary in the Eastern Himalaya is India’s own Shangri La.
Covering an area of 218 square kilometers, the variation in its altitudes is extreme and spawns a mind-boggling richness and diversity of avian life.
It is home to at least 165 species of butterflies, 450 of birds and 15 of mammals.
At every altitude range, starting from the lowest at 500m to the highest at over 3000m, different types of birds thrive, so birding in Eaglenest is akin to visiting a multi- storey exhibition where each floor sports different attractions.
Managed by the Bugun tribe, Eaglenest is a shining example of community-supported eco-tourism.
The spectacular bird diversity of Eaglenest has been the keystone in ensuring the sanctuary`s protection by the resident community through community-based ecotourism (focused on the rare birds of Eaglenest).
This ecotourism initiative, and the consequent revenue and employment, has been greatly successful in creating a broad support base among the tribes living around the area for the conservation of Eaglenest.
The Bugun Welfare Society (BWS) was formed in 2006 to help preserve both the unique traditions of the Buguns (a rare bird species) and the rich forests of the Eaglenest Widlife Sanctuary they live alongside.
"The BWS understands the significance of preserving these pristine forests for themselves and the planet. It is in trying to be responsible stewards of such treasure, that BWS has made involving local communities a key focus in conservation," Sondhi said.
"These new discoveries also highlight the unique, unexplored bio-diversity of Arunachal Pradesh and the urgent need to protect the forests, which are the homes for these wild creatures," commented Arunachal Pradesh Chief Wildlife Warden and PCCF (Wildlife and Biodiversity) N N Zhasa.
The Arunachal government plans to hold its first bird festival at the sanctuary early next year in collaboration with Bugun Welfare Society.
"Apart from the birds, visitors will also be able to watch colourful butterflies. Nowhere else in the region would anyone find such biodiversity," a forest official said.