Where wings flutter freely

Where wings flutter freely

Where wings flutter freely
At a time when every single inch of land is calculated in terms of money, here is a person who has dedicated his 7.35-acre ancestral land to conserve one of the most diverse groups of insects on Earth, the butterflies.

Meet Sammilan Shetty, popularly known as ‘Chitte Shetty’, of Belvai village near Moodbidri, who has developed a fabulous butterfly park, home to innumerable winged beauties. Over 100 types of host plants and more than 60 nectar plants grown with minimum human interference have provided a thriving space for these beautiful insects.

Sammilan Shetty Butterfly Park, conceptualised and developed by this young butterfly lover, is the State’s first privately owned butterfly sanctuary.

As the butterfly season has set in, numerous butterflies in vivid hues welcome the visitors to the colourful world of nature. Thanks to the receding rains, lush green foliage has now made its presence visible everywhere, which has helped the flying jewels flourish in this area — hopping flowers and enjoying the sweet nectar.

First of its kind

An environment enthusiast and to be more specific, a butterfly lover, Sammilan set up the Park in 2011. It was formally inaugurated by the deputy director of Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), Isaac Kehimkar in 2013. Interestingly, it was Isaac’s book The Book of Indian Butterflies that inspired Sammilan to start the butterfly park.

Located in the foothills of Western Ghats in Dakshina Kannada district, along the Moodbidri-Karkala Road, the Butterfly Park is home to more than 100 species of butterflies, of which many are endemic. Apart from this, many foreign species have also found refuge in the Park. Unlike other parks, butterflies flourish in a natural setting here.

They are absolutely free of all kinds of restrictions like butterfly domes. The diversity of plants available in the area has led to the emergence of a perfect environment for the butterflies to sustain. Consequently, one can experience every aspect of the lives of butterflies from a close angle here — right from mating to all the four stages of their life cycle.

So far, about 134 species have been registered in this Park. It includes some rare species like Blue Nawab, Aberrant Oakblue, Branded Royal, Tamil Oakblue and Orchid Tit. Endemic species like Malabar Banded Peacock, Malabar Rose, Tamil Lacewing, Southern Birdwing can also be found here. In fact, the Park has turned to be a safe haven of sorts for the butterflies of Western Ghats.

The Park has been organising educational programmes as a part of its butterfly awareness campaign. Sammilan has documented in detail the life cycle and food chain of butterflies and uses this information to educate visitors about these elusive creatures of nature. The programme includes identification of host and nectar plants, dissemination of information regarding butterfly distribution, their role in maintaining biodiversity and threat to their existence. In 2014, over 400 students from about 10 schools visited this Park and participated in a one-week workshop. Workshops are also organised for the general public. For those who are interested, the Park also provides opportunities to study and conduct scientific research.

Smisha Vinil, a teacher in Mangaluru, appreciates the effort of Sammilan and feels that he has set an example for the present generation. The awareness programmes have encouraged people to engage in butterfly conservation. Sammilan’s constant pursuit — both theoretical and practical — have turned him into an expert in the field. Sammilan, who was a lecturer by profession, left his job recently to take up butterfly conservation fulltime. Initially, his family members had inhibitions about his work, but now, after understanding its significance, render complete support.

Tourist attraction

Generally, the period from June to November is considered to be the best time for viewing these beauties. A walk through the Park is both educative and pleasurable as Sammilan himself takes the visitors through the butterfly trail. The Park also has a video and photo exhibition that sheds more light on these wonderful creatures. For butterfly enthusiasts, this Park has become a perfect place to experience the lives of these delicate beauties. Visitors are also allowed to click pictures and shoot videos without harming the butterflies. 

The Park has slowly grown into a tourist attraction, and for the past two years, more than 1,000 people have made a beeline to this fine repository. Sammilan informs that butterflies play a significant role in the cycle of life, specifically in the pollination process. Known to quickly react to the changes in nature, butterflies are considered as the indicators of biodiversity.

Researchers can assess the health of a particular forest by observing the diversity of butterflies found there. Of late, forest degradation and mono cropping have taken a toll on them. Butterflies are even killed and illegally shipped to other countries.

Sammilan explains the concept behind the Park “I hope to create awareness about these fascinating creatures of nature. My objective is to create a safe space for all the butterflies of Western Ghats and provide a platform to carry out scientific studies on them. More than anything, I want people to experience the sheer joy of butterflies.”

Visit www.butterflyparkbelvai.com for more information.

(Translated by A Varsha Rao)

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