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Butterfly tourism in Bhutan would really help diversify tourism products and opportunities for the local communities and for our guests because the butterfly species found in Bhutan are diverse, exotic and priceless. 

Swallowtail butterflies are large, colorful and fork-tailed butterflies that compose the family Papilionidae. They are named after the bird the swallow in the naming of the type species Papilio machaon (Common Yellow Swallowtail). Globally, there are over 550 species, and in Bhutan 42 swallowtail butterflies are recorded. Our national butterfly is Ludlow’s Bhutan Glory (Bhutanitis ludlowi) which is identified as endangered species. Bhutanitis ludlowi is commonly known as Ludlow’s Bhutan Glory. It was officially declared as Bhutan’s national butterfly in 2012. It is found at an altitude of 2000 to 2500 meters asl. It is spotted commonly in Trashi Yangtsi Valley during Autumn season. Ludlow’s Bhutan Glory (Bhutanitis ludlowi) is listed as endangered under the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), not much was known about the butterfly species until recently. The butterfly was first discovered by plant hunters, Frank Ludlow and George Sheriff at Tobrang, upper parts of Trashi Yangtse valley in 1933-34.  Commonly seen in Bumdeling valley in Bhutan, Ludlow’s Bhutan Glory was rediscovered after 75 years in 2009 by a Bhutanese forester, Karma Wangdi. Travelers can visit Trashi Yangtse to see these beautiful species. 




Common Blue Apollo (Parnassius hardwickii)

 

Gem Silverspot (Issoria gemmata)




Japanese Awlking (Choaspes benjaminii japonica)

Purple and Purple (Zographetus satwa)

 

Narrow-banded Satyr (Aulocera brahminus)





Forester Karma Wangdi, who rediscovered Bhutan’s national butterfly and also received the prestigious Jigme Singye Wangchuck Outstanding Environmental Stewardship Award, has been an inspiration for many butterfly enthusiasts like me.  His pure passion and dedication motivated me to continue studying and observing diverse butterflies in Bhutan. However, there is a need for some kind of institutional support for the general butterfly-lovers who are genuinely interested in learning and documenting information on butterflies in Bhutan. 

With far-sighted environment conservation vision of our monarchs, Bhutan is blessed with pristine forests and rich biodiversity. What is remarkable is that Bhutan keeps discovering new species to science almost every year, and there are undoubtedly many undiscovered species to be discover before they are extinct, including exotic butterflies and moths which are essential for our eco system. 

In my exertion to learn more about butterflies, I have individually observed 650 butterflies so far and some of them are new species found in Bhutan or India. In the past few years, I have studied life cycles of 10 butterflies. One of which was recently listed as new to Indian Subcontinent. What is exciting about butterfly-watching is that it is not only beautiful mysterious creatures but it teaches you a lot of patience, it is like a meditation. One of the toughest butterfly families to observe are Hesperiinae (Skippers) and Lycaenidae (Blues). 




As a Bhutanese butterfly enthusiast and butterfly-watching tour guide, I am personally very grateful to Bhutan Ecological Society for supporting to publish a field guide book with aims to create awareness on birds and butterflies of Bhutan among our citizens, students and tour guides. 

I was recently invited to Assam, India, for their 7th Northeast Butterfly Festival to represent Bhutan. It was organized by Butterflies of Northeast India Group in collaboration with the Government of Bodoland Territorial Council and NGOs like ATREE, WWF India, WTI, Aranyak, SEED, Flutters.org, Ngunu Ziro, BECT, BAMOS and Wiki Love Butterflies.  The aim was to create awareness about biodiversity conservation and to boost tourism potential in the region. Attending the meet, I realized there is a need for such events in Bhutan and also a transboundary Indo-Bhutan butterfly survey would actually benefit the countries in butterfly discovery and conservation.  




I feel butterfly tourism in Bhutan would really help diversify tourism products, services and opportunities for the local communities and for our guests because the butterfly species found in Bhutan are diverse, exotic and priceless. 

Photographs and article contributed by Tshultrim. He is birder and butterfly-watching tour guide with almost a decade’s experience. Tshultrim has also co-authored a pictorial field guide book, “Birds and Butterflies of Bhutan”.

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