They come down to Malabar from the soaring heights and misty mountains of Kodagu and spread themselves all along the streams of Kottiyoor and Aralam forests. After the spectacular flight formations and dazzling mud puddling on the banks of the wooded rivulets and cascades they move further south east to the Nilgiris. It happens towards the end of winter or at the beginning of every summer.
The creamy yellow winged flickering and fluttering Common Albatross butterflies are a delight to the eye especially on the banks of the forest streams. Local species like Chocolate Albatross, Blue Bottle, Painted Saw-tooth, Five-bar Sword-tail and Common Jay or even the occasional Blue Mormon join them for short distances in their epic voyage.
I observed this year’s count with Jaime Chithra on 12 and 13 February 2011 at Valayamchal Forest camp in Aralam Sanctuary. Experts like V C Balakrishnan, Balakrishnan Valapil, Jafer Palot etc. lead the survey. We saw thousands of Albatrosses in a few hours in the morning. We could also see some other butterflies and birds on the margins of the count.
Because of the climatic changes and over monsoon in the region there is a drastic decline in the number of birds and butterflies visiting the Aralam Wildlife Sanctuary which is the life line of Kannur district and Malabar at large. Despite the heavy rains the streams emptiying into Valapattanam/Kuppam river like Cheenkannipuzha and Bavalipuzha are also lacking in sufficient water flow. It is getting clearer that this green and wet area of Malabar is also facing severe drought threats and drier spells in the immediate future.
An Unethical Trend Paraded as Scientific Study
Another alarming and unethical practice that is marring the nature-study and butterfly conservation paradigm is something called ”butterfly rearing”. This is a complete unethical intervention in the organic order and complex processes of nature and the web of life at large and could cause devastating effects in future ecology and genetic equilibrium.
The fundamental premises and practices of butterfly rearing and ”life cycle study” are against bio-ethics as it intervenes in the autonomy and ecological rhythm of nature without even anticipating its environmental consequences. It could be identified as a naive violence, a criminal invasion and an ignorant aggression on the eggs and hatched larvae of the butterflies. Its a sustained sadism of the occult and obscurantist sort presented and paraded naked as pure science and experimental inquiry.
The hungry watcher/photographer or self presumed ”scientist” manipulates the eggs and pupa according to his whims and fancies to get photos and to break the records in hatching and rearing. It has deteriorated into an obnoxious competition between the rearing lunatics!
The tragedy is that it is done at the coast of our fragile ecosystem and its sensitive life balance. It is a blind mad race that people lacking ecological and ethical literacy crave at. Think of ornithologists collecting the eggs of endangered birds and rearing them in their backyards or studios for a more exotic close shot or a complete video, or just to break the records in home-reared birds!!
According to the exponents of this fascist Eugenics it is a harmless pass time and some of them even ascribe “scientific study” facades to this mere voyeuristic and scopophilic perversion which is morally and environmentally catastrophic in the long run. It is also vital to remind the authorities concerned that the public fund which must be earmarked for developing the conservationist culture and bio-ethics among the people, especially the young student generations must not be misused for this kind of unethical and aggressive-absurdity that is a common shame in both the realms of nature and culture.