MANGALURU: Brightly coloured and very photogenic, these incredible insects flit from one plant to another — a visual treat to visitors. And some may even land on you. Their fascinating transformation from caterpillar to a beauty captivates all. Welcome to the Butterfly Park.
This piece of land at Belvai village, about 8km from Moodbidri town in Dakshina Kannada, has been turned into a riot of colours where over 150 species of butterflies are recorded. Sammilan Shetty, 34, who owns the paradise, says it was his mother who gave away her 7.35-acres of land to him to conserve the frisky beauties. Started in 2011, Shetty promotes butterfly conservation and also creates awareness among the public.
“June to November is the season of the butterflies,” he says. These tiny beauties have found a paradise at Shetty’s park – thanks to host plants (to lay eggs), planted by him. The butterflies also rely on nectar plants such as Stachytarpheta jamaicensis, Stachytarpheta indica, Stachytarpheta mutabilis, Duranta erecta, Hibiscus, Ixora spp, Cuphea spp and Tridax procumbens.
It was during his college days, while doing a project in zoology class, Shetty started researching on the dazzling creatures. His zoology teacher, Prof. Ashok C H, had allotted him a project on ‘Study of local butterflies’. Since then, his special interest grew. An MBA graduate in tourism, he quit his job as a lecturer to become full-time butterfly conservationist. His mother Manimala S Shetty, wife Shamitha Shetty and brothers have supported him in conserving the natural habitat for butterflies.
Shetty says he was fortunate that his inspiration, the Butterfly Man of India Isaac Kehimkar, himself opened the park for public view in 2013. It was Isaac’s book, ‘The Book on Indian Butterflies’, that inspired Shetty to think of a butterfly park. The park has an entry in the World Book of Records, London for hosting awareness programmes and conservation activities. For over three months in a year, workers, trained by Shetty, join in weeding and planting of host plants at the park.
Shetty’s sole intention is to conserve and develop a habitat for the winged beauties in Western Ghats and so far he has recorded a total number of 151 species at his park. “When you conserve or create a natural habitat, butterflies stay during the season. Sometimes, they also just visit and go. Some butterflies are regular visitors like Malabar Banded Peacock, Southern Birdwing(state butterfly) and Clipper,” he says.
Some interesting species sighted regularly at the park are Malabar Banded Peacock, Southern Birdwing, Autumn Leaf, Clipper, Redspot Duke, Gaudy Baron, Dark Evening Brown, Tawny Rajah, Tamil Lacewing, Cruiser, Blue Oakleaf and Colour Sergeant. According to Shetty, some interesting butterflies he has seen in the last five years are Blue Nawab, Silver Streaked Acacia Blue, Aberrant Oakblue, Malabar Flash, Orchid Tit, Malabar Banded Swallowtail, Malabar Rose, Southern Duffer and Great Evening Brown.
On an average, the park sees over 30 visitors per day, who are taken on a tour by Shetty. The registration fee is Rs 40 for students and Rs 80 for adults and entry is free for government school students ever since it was opened for public view. He also explains about the life cycle of the winged beauties to the visitors, followed by a Power-point presentation and video presentation for half an hour.
Mangaluru City Police Commissioner Dr P S Harsha, who visited the park recently, says that the butterfly park is a great initiative of Shetty. “Sammilan Shetty has understood the eco-principles very well and has tried to recreate a friendly and conducive atmosphere by planting the required host species for butterflies, retaining the originality of the eco-system. Butterflies are an important chain in the eco-system in retaining bio-diversity. It is a great and unique effort, worth visiting and also it is a visual treat for us. All kudos to Shetty,” says the top cop.
Another visitor to this park from Dakshina Kannada is Zilla Panchayat CEO Dr Selvamani. “Shetty has documented over 100 butterfly species. We need to support him in conserving the butterflies,” he says.