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Home News & Opinions “More people, fewer butterflies” – India and Sikkim, 2006
“More people, fewer butterflies” – India and Sikkim, 2006 PDF Print E-mail

We - Pat and I, that is – visited India in October –November 2006, filming the butterflies and also the high mountains, especially Kanchenjunga and Narsing.

Kanchenjunga is the third highest mountain in the world, after Mount Everest and K2, at 8,586 metres (28,169 feet). It’s the highest mountain in India and the second highest in Nepal. It means “The Five Treasures of Snows”, as it contains five peaks, four of them over 8,450 metres. Narsing is 5800 metres (19029 ft). and is described as one of the ‘big hills’ of Sikkim.

The project was another episode in our attempts to record as many as possible of the world’s butterflies on film, tape or disc before their habitats retreat further and maybe disappear for ever. Conditions in the valleys of Sikkim were not encouraging in that respect. Since I was last there 20 years ago, the quality of air and the visibility of the high peaks from the valleys have both noticeably declined. As to the encroachment of settlements and businesses into the valleys themselves, it continues apace. Rice terraces on forest slopes, and hydro-electric schemes and factories in what were once wildlife areas, have become common. It is a typical example of “More people, fewer butterflies”.

We had a session with the President of the Sikkim Conservation Foundation, Keshab Pradhan, in Gangtok, and plan to prepare a film that can be used to stimulate awareness in the valleys of Sikkim’s butterfly heritage, to complement the work of the Foundation to help preserve birdlife. The Foundation was behind the production in 1992 of a useful Guide to the area’s butterflies, “The Butterflies of Sikkim, Himalaya and their Natural History” by Meena Haribal, which you can buy on the net. Now the hope is to have more material in forms suitable for schools and community action groups, to make people aware of the need to conserve before it is too late.

Courtesy of some Calcutta birders’ helpful recommendation, we spent our last week down in the Dooars of North Bengal, at the Buxar Tiger Reserve, staying at a newly developed bungalow accommodation on the Phaskowa Tea Estate. The Estate Manager, Manoj, was our host in his spacious and beautiful traditional bungalow, and his staff helped us find the butterflies and gave us a lot of useful guidance on where to go. You can see all about the bungalow at phaskowa.com/aboutus.htm - and his guest’s comments at phaskowa.com/guestbook.htm. It’s a place worth knowing for butterfly watchers, as the forest is in good condition and full of butterflies, - but not many tigers.

Last Updated on Monday, 23 November 2009 13:06