In the second week of October, I made a short visit to Nagaland as part of a natural history training session that I was conducting for the local youth. I try to make my natural history training session fun for the participants. It is my belief that if I can get people to appreciate nature, it will be easier to convince them about the necessity to conserve and protect our natural history.
In the State of Nagaland, hunting is prevalent in every village. It is part of the local culture to hunt. At every location you visit, you’ll see the youth carrying air guns or catapults to hunt birds, squirrels and almost anything else that moves in the forest. With this background, getting the youth to fall in love with nature is a difficult task.
Despite the fact that the youth in the area have grown up with nature, it is still necessary to get them to look at their surroundings with fresh eyes. Fortunately, I have friends in nature to assist me in my difficult task. Among my best friends in the forests are the winged fairies — butterflies. Butterflies are easy to see, pretty to look at, and I know a lot of stories about them that I can relate!
On this trip, I spotted an orange awlet, a marvellous orange butterfly that is a very fast flier. I informed the youth with me that the easiest place to see this butterfly was near kitchens on forest edges, early in the morning. The lads with me thought I was loco until I explained that this butterfly is active early in the morning or at dusk. And that it loves to feed on waste food on the soil near the kitchens. On this occasion however, the orange awlet was feeding on the metalled road that we were on. As we watched it feed, we could not figure out what attracted the butterfly to that spot, but it kept returning to the same spot to feed. As we watched, the butterfly extruded a drop of water from its abdomen onto the road. From the wet spot, it began to feed on the minerals on the dry road. The youth with me watched the butterfly repeat this neat trick and were enthralled!
The fun did not stop here. A little further on, we spotted another butterfly. It was the common gem and is on my list of ‘ooh-aah’ butterflies. The common gem is so pretty that the “oohs” and “aahs” from the audience just don’t seem to stop. Watching the pretty common gem, one of the local lads commented, “We have never seen this butterfly in our village before!” And I responded, “Not just this butterfly, but many other pretty creatures live in your area — if only you care to look. If you protect them, they will continue to visit!”
The nods of the youth with me lead me to believe that I had won the first battle. I had got the local youth interested and intrigued by the beautiful creatures that nature had to offer!
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