Choki Wangmo

Last week, a team of foresters from Phrumsengla National Park, while on Covid-19 duty, reported first sighting of Bhutanitis ludlowi, the Ludlow’s Bhutan Glory, also known as Ludlow’s Bhutan Swallowtail.

Foresters Phuntsho Wangdi, Ugyen Lhendup, Tashi Samdrup, and Sonam Choda spotted the butterfly in Khandupang, Bumthang.

Three individuals were found feeding on flower species—Aster sp., and Sambucus adnate—right off the road in mixed conifer forest at an altitude of more than 3,300 metres above sea level.

Ugyen Lhendup said: “The team was taken by surprise and was excited since the spotting was out of its usual range. We will be soon checking on its host plant and habitat.”

The species was last recorded in Tobrang, Trashiyangtse in 2009 by butterfly researcher and forester at the Ugyen Wangchuck Institute for Conservation of Nature, Karma Wangdi, at an altitude range of 2,300-2,500 metres above sea level.

Bhutanitis ludlowi is listed as “Endangered” under the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List Category.

Although there were no scientific studies to deduce sightings of species in unusual range, Karma Wangdi said that climate factors played a crucial role. He said that due to changing climate, most of the low-elevation plant and animal species were moving towards higher elevation.

He said that the phenomenon was observed in other types of butterfly through the database he maintained. He helps identify and confirm the various species of butterflies found across the country.

Recognised as the national butterfly in 2012, the Bhutan Glory can be easily distinguished by its less strongly toothed hindwing, grey or dirty yellow submarginal lunules on upper-side of hindwing and broader forewing. It belongs to the Papilionidae family.

Previously believed to be endemic to Bhutan and found in the Bumdeling Wildlife Sanctuary, the recent spotting makes Phrumsengla Park the new habitat range for the species.

The park now has 85 species of butterfly, making it the third protected area globally to own the species.

Bhutan has 760 butterfly species. Recently, a new species was reported from the Jomotsangkha Wildlife Sanctuary.