Isaac Kehimkar is excited about his book, ‘Butterflies of India’, a sequel to his ‘Book on Indian Butterflies’ which received an enthusiastic response. The renowned naturalist and nature author, who jointly edited the Bombay Natural History Society’s (BNHS) quarterly natural history magazine, Hornbill, thanks the social media for increasing his reach for his research.
‘Book on Indian Butterflies’ was jointly published by the BNHS and the Oxford University Press in 2008. The response exceeded expectations, prompting Kehimkar, who is Deputy Direc-tor of Natural History at BNHS, to work on a sequel. ‘Butterflies of India’ covers more than a thousand different butterflies. The picture book has a description of all butterfly species covered.
While speaking about his researching methods for the book, Kehimkar, who had earned the epithet “butterfly man”, said that his travels to biodiversity hotspots in India were his primary sources of information. The Sunderbans, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim and other regions in North India have more than nine hundred kinds of butterflies. In fact, Kehimkar travelled to Sikkim five times to collect data for his book.
Besides north-eastern India, he stumbled upon several endemic species in Western Ghats and Andaman islands. “India is such a beautiful and diverse country. One lifetime is certainly not enough to explore the whole of India. In fact, I am thankful to the butterflies for showing me the true beauty of our country”, Kehimkar said.
Kehimkar says the book is the result of hard work of several photographers and butterfly enthusiasts, who supplied him with photos through social networking websites. Several groups on Facebook meant for butterfly enthusiasts enabled him to extend his reach to the corners of India.
“There is a doctor in Arunachal Pradesh, who has photographed the Kaiser-i-Hind, a butterfly species so rare that it has never been captured on screen in India. I got to know about this through these social networking sites, and he was kind enough to share his photographs with me. More than fifty photographers have supplied pictures for my book, in addition to my own.”
Kehimkar feels this social outreach has given more impetus to youths to explore nature. According to him, budding nature enthusiasts are finding common ground through social networking websites and lobbying and connecting very easily. It helped them cultivate their passion for nature.
“Social media has promoted digital photography and made it extremely convenient to share your passion and learn from experts all over the world. Nature photography is a career which has interested the youth today,” Kehimkar said.
This is one of the major reasons why Kehimkar’s new book focuses more on photographs of butterflies, with a brief description of species. This has allowed him to increase the scope of his book and incorporate several new species. “My previous book covered six hundred and thirty four species of butterflies, this (book) has information about a thousand species,” he said.
Having joined the BNHS in 1979 as a volunteer, Kehimkar is now the Deputy Director of Natural History at BNHS. He described BNHS as a ‘big school’, which allowed him to grow. It also enabled him to meet renowned naturalists like Salim Ali and J C Daniel, who inspired him.