A rare butterfly species has been sighted at Eaglenest Wildlife Sanctuary in Arunachal Pradesh by two nature enthusiasts, for the first time since British naturalist Frank Ludlow collected it in May 1938.
Sanjay Sondhi of Dehradun and Purnendu Roy from London discovered the Tibetan Brimstone Gonepteryx amintha thibetana at the sanctuary in April last year. The Journal of Threatened Taxa, an international peer-reviewed journal, has published paper on the sighting in its August 26, 2013 issue.
"Ludlow collected the butterfly at Lalung in Pachakshiri in 1938," Sondhi, who runs a non-profit organisation, Titli Trust, in Dehradun, said. "In 1968, Yuri Nekrutenko, a Russian lepidopterist, based on Ludlow's butterfly collection, said it was a new subspecies Gonepteryx amintha thibetana."
According to Sondhi, the butterfly was seen by Roy at Anini in Upper Dirang Valley District of Arunachal Pradesh in July 1987. However, this was never reported, he said.
The location at which the butterfly was collected by Ludlow was thought to be in Tibet. However, Pachakshiri, now known as Mechuka, is a region on the upper tributaries of the River Siyom in West Siang district of Arunachal Pradesh, said Sondhi, who along with Roy, sighted the butterfly as part of the survey for the Eaglenest Biodiversity Project.
Another butterfly, Ludlow's Bhutan Glory, was also spotted at Eaglenest last year. This species, which is Bhutan's national butterfly, was known only from one location in Bhutan before its sighting at Eaglenest and Dirang.
The two photographers who discovered the butterfly. (HT Photo)
Eaglenest is no stranger to such sightings. The Bompu Litter Frog, a new frog species with blue eyes, was also discovered at the sanctuary in 2011.
Arunachal Pradesh forest officials believe that the latest butterfly discovery will boost nature tourism in the state.
"The discovery highlights the unexplored biodiversity of Arunachal Pradesh and the urgent need to protect the forests, which are home to these wild creatures," said NN Zhasa, chief wildlife warden of the state.
The Bugun Welfare Society formed by the Bugun tribe conducts nature tourism at Eaglenest and supports numerous on-the-ground conservation actions to assist saving the area's forests and its biodiversity.
In fact, the society, with support from the state forest department, will organise the state's first-ever bird festival at Eaglenest in February 2014.