Ever since I went to Andaman in Feb 2012, it has become very close to my heart. The lush green rainforests, the beautiful coasts and the rare and endemic wildlife that I’ve encountered there have fascinated me.
When I went back in late November-early December, I encountered fairly heavy rains every afternoon. On the morning of December 01, 2012, I went to Chidiya Tapu on a birding trail. It was an eventful morning as we encountered the rare (and endemic) Andaman Crake just a few feet away from us in the rainforest undergrowth.
As early afternoon set in, the temperature went up, as did the humidity. We were birding along a fairly disturbed patch of the forest. It was a path connecting two villages and there were quite a few people walking or cycling on the path. On both sides of the path were good patches of rainforest. Along the path, there were shrubs and next-generation trees where a lot of butterflies were seen, including Andaman Oakleaf (Kallima albofasciata) and Andaman Lacewing (Cethosia biblis andamanica). This area is also very close to the coast (around 200m away).
There was one butterfly that caught my eye. I didn’t recollect seeing this one before. It was sitting on a plant about 3 feet from the ground. Luckily for me, the butterfly also obliged by giving me ample time to get some photographs.
After I got back from the tour, the butterfly was identified as the Andaman Banded Dandy Laringa horsfieldii andamanensis. The individual photographed was a female. The male is dark blue in colouration with a pale blue band.
This is perhaps the first photographic record of this species from Andaman & Nicobar in recent times. According to Lt. Col. M. L . Ferrar (1948) who did the first systematic study on the butterflies in the islands through the first half of the twentieth century, the Andaman Banded Dandy is:
[box] A very local butterfly. Certain spots on the Black Rock Road (Mount Harriet) usually had one male sitting 20 ft. or so up on a leaf in rivalry with males of L. procris and P. nefte, etc. If this one were caught, there would usually be another on duty at the next visit.[/box]
Butterflies of the genus Laringa are found in Burma, Malay Peninsula, Sumatra, Java, Borneo and Palawan. The andamanensis subspecies of L. horsfieldii occurs only in South Andaman. The butterfly appears to be very restricted in range to Mt. Harriet (Prashanth Mohanraj and K Veenakumari, 2004) and relatively rare (unrecorded in the studies by T.C. Khatri,1996 and M. Soubhadra Devy, et al, 1998). This is probably the first sighting from a different area (Chidiya Tapu) in South Andaman.
My thanks to Karthikeyan S. for his help in identification of the butterfly and giving me pointers to different research papers.