Butterfly List

Photos: Not just pretty pictures, a new butterfly catalogue can help save India’s rivers

Keeping track of butterflies at headwaters of rivers can help track the health of forests and their water bodies

India finally has its first comprehensive catalogue of butterflies since Independence. Peter Smetacek, a scientist at the Butterfly Research Centre at Bhimtal, spent years putting together a synoptic list of the 1,318 species found across the country. The exercise is not only to document the variety of butterflies in India but to help save India’s rivers – a cause that Smetacek has been championing.

“We have been trying to analywe the health of the forest using the insect community there and that is why the catalogue is important because you must know what is where,” Smetacek explained. To do this, scientists first must clarify taxonomy of the various species and then ascertain what a forest contains. “We did that with butterflies and we will move on to moths," he said. "In due course we will have a map of different types of community structures in different parts of India, especially in the headwaters of rivers.”

The eventual goal, the butterfly expert said, is to charge forest departments with maintaining or monitoring populations of insects, birds or other bio-indicators that tell us about the health of the forest at headwaters. Acting on the basis of such ecological information, experts could act to stabilise the flow of rivers so that it can really ensure our water security.

“That is the only concrete approach. All the rest that we are doing with dams and so on are of no use,” said Smetacek.

Butterflies may not be the best plant pollinators around but they are integral to the food chain, converting plant matter to animal protein by serving on the diets of insects, frogs, wasps and birds. The new catalogue has been the first butterfly list compiled for India since 1932. After Independence and Partition, no one knew which butterfly species remained in Pakistan and the occupied parts of Kashmir. The Synoptic Catalogue of the Butterflies of India that has been edited by Smetacek and RK Varshney, retired additional director of the Zoological Society of India, has filled in those information gaps.The catalogue includes remarkable varieties like the Travancore Evening Brown, a butterfly endemic to India and found only in Kerala and Karnataka. The butterfly is the only existing species in its genus and its closest relative is found in South America indicating that its belongs to a lineage that went extinct ages ago. “Luckily there is a very good, viable population in protected areas,” said Smetacek.

Here's a look at some of those 1,318 species.


Bronze Duke Euthalia nara found in the Eastern Himalaya.



Indian Fritillary male found over most of India.



Orange Oakleaf Kallima inachus found in northern India is the best example of camouflage.



Striped Blue Crow Euploea mulciber has brilliant blue marking and slow, unhurried flight.



Tailed Punch Dodona has a false head at the tip of the hindwing.



Tiger Brown Orinoma damaris is the only species of its genus found from Himachal Pradesh to China.



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Changing the conversation around mental health in rural India

Insights that emerged from discussions around mental health at a village this World Mental Health Day.

Questioning is the art of learning. For an illness as debilitating as depression, asking the right questions is an important step in social acceptance and understanding. How do I open-up about my depression to my parents? Can meditation be counted as a treatment for depression? Should heartbreak be considered as a trigger for deep depression? These were some of the questions addressed by a panel consisting of the trustees and the founder of The Live Love Lough Foundation (TLLLF), a platform that seeks to champion the cause of mental health. The panel discussion was a part of an event organised by TLLLF to commemorate World Mental Health Day.

According to a National Mental Health Survey of India 2015-16, conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS), common mental disorders including depression, anxiety disorders and substance use disorders affect nearly 10% of the population, with 1 in 20 people in India suffering from depression. The survey reported a huge treatment gap, a problem that is spread far and wide across urban and rural parts of the country.

On 10th of October, trustees of the foundation, Anna Chandy, Dr. Shyam Bhat and Nina Nair, along with its founder, Deepika Padukone, made a visit to a community health project centre in Devangere, Karnataka. The project, started by The Association of People with Disability (APD) in 2010, got a much-needed boost after partnering with TLLLF 2 years ago, helping them reach 819 people suffering from mental illnesses and spreading its program to 6 Taluks, making a difference at a larger scale.

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During the visit, the TLLLF team met patients and their families to gain insights into the program’s effectiveness and impact. Basavaraja, a beneficiary of the program, spoke about the issues he faced because of his illness. He shared how people used to call him mad and would threaten to beat him up. Other patients expressed their difficulty in getting access to medical aid for which they had to travel to the next biggest city, Shivmoga which is about 2 hours away from Davangere. A marked difference from when TLLLF joined the project two years ago was the level of openness and awareness present amongst the villagers. Individuals and families were more expressive about their issues and challenges leading to a more evolved and helpful conversation.

The process of de-stigmatizing mental illnesses in a community and providing treatment to those who are suffering requires a strong nexus of partners to make progress in a holistic manner. Initially, getting different stakeholders together was difficult because of the lack of awareness and resources in the field of mental healthcare. But the project found its footing once it established a network of support from NIMHANS doctors who treated the patients at health camps, Primary Healthcare Centre doctors and the ASHA workers. On their visit, the TLLLF team along with APD and the project partners discussed the impact that was made by the program. Were beneficiaries able to access the free psychiatric drugs? Did the program help in reducing the distance patients had to travel to get treatment? During these discussions, the TLLLF team observed that even amongst the partners, there was an increased sense of support and responsiveness towards mental health aid.

The next leg of the visit took the TLLLF team to the village of Bilichodu where they met a support group that included 15 patients and caregivers. Ujjala Padukone, Deepika Padukone’s mother, being a caregiver herself, was also present in the discussion to share her experiences with the group and encouraged others to share their stories and concerns about their family members. While the discussion revolved around the importance of opening up and seeking help, the team brought about a forward-looking attitude within the group by discussing future possibilities in employment and livelihood options available for the patients.

As the TLLLF team honoured World Mental Health day, 2017 by visiting families, engaging with support groups and reviewing the successes and the challenges in rural mental healthcare, they noticed how the conversation, that was once difficult to start, now had characteristics of support, openness and a positive outlook towards the future. To continue this momentum, the organisation charted out the next steps that will further enrich the dialogue surrounding mental health, in both urban and rural areas. The steps include increasing research on mental health, enhancing the role of social media to drive awareness and decrease stigma and expanding their current programs. To know more, see here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of The Live Love Laugh Foundation and not by the Scroll editorial team.