A three-day survey in the Shendurney Wildlife Sanctuary has recorded 176 species of butterflies. The findings of the survey, conducted jointly by the Travancore Natural History Society (TNHS) and the Kerala Forest Department from November 11, make the 171-sq km sanctuary one of the richest butterfly-diverse areas in the Western Ghats.
For the survey the entire sanctuary was covered by setting up six base camps at vantage places like Kattalapara, Kallar, Pandimotta, Umayar, Rockwood, and Rosemala. The highest number of butterflies was recorded at Umayar (105 species) and they included the Travancore Evening Brown, the Plain Banded Awl and the Indigo Flash. The Kallar area had the second highest number (96) species. Nymphalids, the brush-footed butterflies, topped the family list with 58 species followed by Skippers (40) and Lycaenids or the Blues (37). Of the Papilionids, the swallowtail butterflies, 15 species out of the 19 known species in the Western Ghats were recorded.
The Southern Birdwing, the largest Indian butterfly, was seen in almost all the regions of the sanctuary. Seventeen of 33 Pierrids were also recorded in the region.
The TNHS had earlier made a checklist of 257 species of butterflies in the sanctuary through a decade-long observation at different seasons.
There are 334 species of butterflies recorded in the whole of the Western Ghats and the present survey takes the total number of butterfly species observed in the sanctuary to 263 species including 25 endemic to the Western Ghats.
Use of herbicides
The survey noted that large-scale use of herbicides in the plantations within the sanctuary was taking a heavy toll on the butterflies and other forms of life. Wildlife Warden of the sanctuary R. Lakshmi expressed concern over the use of herbicides in the sanctuary and said she would take a serious look into the issue.