The city’s largest open space, Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP), has emerged as a sanctuary of hundreds of butterfly species.
According to a 2015 report in the Mumbai print edition of The Hindustan Times, a study states that SGNP is home to nearly 174 butterfly species, including about 100 rare types. The study added that the United Kingdom has only 60 or so native species. The list of rare butterflies includes the Southern Birdwing, said to be the largest in India, the Red Helen and the Large Guava Blue.
In November 2014, park authorities came out with a pocket booklet, Butterflying in SGNP, that serves as a photographic guide to some of the winged beauties visitors are likely to see. Shardul Bajikar, a naturalist and executive editor of the booklet, said the idea behind the publication was to make visitors aware of the natural history of SGNP. Each entry consists of colourful illustrations, photographs and basic information about the butterfly species including behaviour and flying patterns.
“Identifying butterflies is tough,” Bajikar said, “it’s difficult to identify a creature by looking at its picture in a book because sometimes they fly away, or their wings look different when they’re open as opposed to when they’re closed.”
The booklet is part of SGNP’s move to become more accessible to visitors. Other measures have included introducing a uniform signage system throughout the park and online bookings and up-to-date information on the park website. There’s another booklet planned too, Bajikar said.
“It’ll be like a naturalist’s diary of a year in the park, what to expect in the different seasons and the natural history and landscape of the park,” he said. Like the booklet on butterflies, this publication will also be illustration and photo-heavy and is a work in progress.
But published guides and booklets aren’t the only available guides to butterfly-spotting. There are a few apps and websites that can help you out. Beginners can try Butterflies and Bees (for urban species) or I Love Butterflies, both available for Android smartphones. These apps include colour pictures and information on a host of butterflies. For the more serious spotters there is IFoundButterflies.com, a site that compiles data on sightings across India.
Kamakshi Ayyar is a former member of NGT India's digital team. She is partial to places by the sea and desserts in all forms. When she isn't raving about food, she's usually rambling on about the latest cosmic mysteries. She tweets as @kamakshi138.