Butterfly survey conducted in Periyar Tiger Reserve
A four-day long butterfly survey was conducted by 152 persons consisting of volunteers and experts. During the survey of the Periyar Tiger Reserve located in Idukki district of Kerala, 246 species of butterflies were found.
Conducting the survey
The survey was conducted under the aegis of the Periyar Tiger Conservation Foundation and the Travancore Natural History Society (TNHS) between October 23 and 26. TNHS is a Thiruvananthapuram based NGO.
The survey covered the entire reserve which was spread over 925 sq. kms. The entire reserve was divided into 26 blocks. More than 150 persons, including butterfly experts, scientists, ecologists, photographers and students were divided into 26 teams and they surveyed their allotted areas. The Forest Department, forest and other research institutes, and major nature conservation groups participated in the survey.
Amongst the 246 species of butterflies, the survey recorded 17 species of paplionidae, 25 of pierides, 78 nymphalidae, one ryodinidae, 56 lycenidae and 69 hesperidae. Of these, 30 of the 32 species of butterflies endemic to the Western Ghats were found.
The surveyors also recorded around 20 species of mammals, 110 species of birds, 22 species of reptiles, 21 species of amphibians, 36 species of spiders, 20 species of dragon flies and 25 species of ants.
The last time a butterfly survey was conducted at the Periyar Reserve was in 1992, when just over 160 butterflies had been recorded.
Rare Species found
Three rare species of butterflies were also found during the survey: Baby five ring, Pale green awlet and Broad Tail Royal. The Baby five ring has been recorded in the world only three times before. The Pale green awlet is a nocturnal butterfly that was found in the Velliamala section of the Periyar reserve. The Broad Tail Royal was recorded for the first time in Kerala in the Eravangalar region of the reserve.
Importance of surveying Butterflies
Butterflies are considered an indicator species, meaning their diversity helps ecologists study and assess the health of the ecosystem. They are also an indicator of climate change; the healthier the ecosystem, the greater the diversity of butterflies. Additionally, the survey can help determine if there has been any habitat disturbance.