Few people know that Nepal is a butterfly paradise. It is a lepidopterist's dream-come-true. The kingdom is a Moth Superpower.
Mahendra Singh Limbu is too modest to say it himself, but he is one of the few Nepali authorities on Nepali butterflies. "I was interested in the outdoors since early childhood, but my schooling furthered this interest even more," says Limbu, who has been working diligently since high school graduation to be a butterfly expert. Mahendra doesn't have a fancy foreign university degree, and he doesn't need it. He is a self-taught lepidopterist, he has travelled extensively across Nepal in the past ten years to collect specimens for Toshirop Haruta's Moths of Nepal, and the unpublished Butterflies of Nepal.
Toshiro Haruta of Japan who helped found the Japan Heterocerists Society, was considered to be one of the leading experts in the world on lepidopterology, the science of butterflies and moths. Five volumes of Moths of Nepal were published between 1992-98, the only books on the nocturnal moths found in Nepal. The second part of their venture, Butterflies of Nepal never made it to the press-Haruta passed away in September 1996.
Mahendra's research stopped for a while, and Nepal's 670 species and subspecies of butter-flies lost the attention they had received from the duo. Butterfly collection started out as an economic venture just like collec-ting a Picasso or a Rembrandt, but Mahendra says that today these beautiful and fragile insects are indicators of the health of the environment. Mahe-ndra comes originally from the hills of Taplejung district, but has been living in Godavari since the early 1970s-mainly because Nepal's treasure house of butter-flies and birds on Phulchoki is right in his backyard! Mahendra leads groups on bird and butterfly-watching expeditions as a nature guide. It is in these walks that Mahendra is in his element. He says: "The forest of Phulchoki is a paradise not only for butterflies, but also for birds." And also, it seems, for those who admire them.