The winged beauties are here

Crusade

The winged beauties  are here

A young man’s passion has translated into the State’s first private butterfly park. The focus here is on conserving species found in the Western Ghats, says Sandhya C D’Souza

They are small. They are beautiful and fragile. Who wouldn’t be attracted to these delicate, winged beauties? Thanks to rapid urbanisation, butterflies are now a rare sight to behold as they flitted between flowers and branches. But they seem to have found a new home at Sammilan Shetty’s house in Belvai village, Moodabidri.

The 28-year-old lecturer, who fell in love with the dazzling species is on a crusade of saving them, and hence has converted his 7.35-acre ancestral property into Karnataka’s first private butterfly park.

Sammilan Shetty’s butterfly park, located on the foot of Kanthavara forest in Belvai village was founded in 2011, with an aim of conserving the dwindling butterflies of Western Ghats. Shetty has planted various host plants, so that butterflies can feed on nectar and also breed.

Thanks to his efforts, the park presently hosts 113 species of butterflies throughout the year belonging to five families such as Hesperiidae (Skippers), Papilionoidae (Swallowtails), Peridae (Whites and Yellows), Lycaenidae (Blues) and Nymphalidae (Brush-footed butterflies).

The major attractions include Malabar Banded Peacock, Southern Birdwing, Paris Peacock, Tamil Lacewing, Tawny Rajah, Red Spot Duke, Autumn Leaf, Clipper, Western Centaur Oakblue, Large Oakblue, Banded Royal and many more.

Shetty says that his special interest for butterflies grew when he was allotted a project on “Study of local butterflies” by his Zoology teacher Ashok C H, during his graduation days at Alva’s College, Moodabidri, in 2006. Since then, he has been keenly observing butterflies and has dedicated himself to conserve them.

But the idea of setting up a park for conservation of butterflies was born after Shetty came across an article, Gardening for Butterflies, by Isaac Kehimkar in his book, The Book of Indian Butterflies. The idea flowered and finally led to awareness programmes and conservation activities being held in the park at Belvai.

The butterflies are disappearing due to the destruction of their habitat. The butterflies depend a lot on their host plants. Sadly, these plants are destroyed due to pollution, deforestation and use of insecticides.

“I have planted many varieties of host plants and made nectar-rich plants available in plenty. I also keep liquid of rotten fruits, which is relished by the butterflies,” says Shetty. About 3.5 acres of park land is in the secondary forest area and naturally existing host plants are being identified and conserved. The iconic tree of Western Ghats, the Hopea ponga, which is the host plant of three varieties of Oakblue is found here. At present, I am trying to propagate more native host plants to support the caterpillar stage of butterflies, Shetty says.

Immediate attention

Butterflies are an important part of the food web and are very good pollinators. Some of them are used as indicator species to identify habitats that are critical and require immediate attention for conservation. “My main aim is to create awareness among people, especially among youngsters and to make them understand the importance of butterflies in nature, which we believe would make this earth, a better place to live in,” says the proud owner of the park.

The park is open for public only on Sundays between 8:30 am and 12 noon. Sammilan Shetty then personally briefs his guests about the various butterfly species in the park and methods taken to conserve them. Shetty also plans to open a gallery, which displays photos and information on butterflies and also screen documentaries to help people know the winged jewels better.

The Malabar Banded Peacock, which also symbolises the species weatlh of the place, is the logo of this beautiful private park. Sammilan Shetty has also developed a website www.butterflyparkbelvai.com.

The park is located on the foot of Kanthavara forest and is in Belvai village, between Moodabidri and Karkala. From Mangalore city the park is 42 kilometres away and from Bangalore it is around 360 kilometres away.

Those preferring public transport have many buses connecting to Belvai village and one can reach the park from Belvai in an auto-rickshaw. The best time to visit the park is between July and December.

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