Face to face with a "Limca book of Records" holder Mr. Mirtunjay Sharma - An insect hobbyist
By Rahul Kumar
Recently, I got an opportunity to meet a forest department employee Mr. Mirtunjay Sharma, who is also a “Limca Book of Records” record holder hobbyist entomologist, naturalist and conservationist from the state of Jharkhand. He is famously known as Insect Man of Jharkhand for his passionate interest in insects and often appears in various newspapers and television for his unique findings in the forests of Jharkhand. Interestingly, though he doesn’t hold any professional degree in entomology, still he is able to precisely recognize insects and spiders even up to species levels. He doesn’t kill or collect insects, rather he observes and digitally record their habits, habitats and behaviours in natural conditions. On being asked why doesn’t he kill and collect these specimens for future investigations, he replies, what if the specimen he is documenting right now is the last living individual of its species! It was a great experience meeting and interacting with such a grounded and humble person. Following is a part of our conversation which would surely inspire and motivate existing and budding entomologists.
Rahul: When and how did you start working on insects?
Mirtunjay: Around 2004-2005 I think. The journey began as my interest in exploring and documenting biodiversity of the Chhotanagpur plateau of Jharkhand. While my exploration, I observed that nowadays it has become difficult to spot large animals in the forest. People like to visit forests for watching big animals and birds. People think that forests are becoming boring. How to make forests more attractive and interesting? The solution I thought for this question was to document the diversity of such animals which are hidden in forests yet abundant. The only way to connect a common man with forest is to make him aware about its diversity, and who can be more abundant that the arthropods. While my investigation of the plateau, I found a completely different and unexplored world of insects. Very less work on insect diversity has been done in plateau. We are lucky that we are living in the oldest plateau of the world which is endowed with plethora of insects and spiders. People considered me mad when I shared with them about my findings and interests but now I am being recognized by the scientific community too. Among all the fancy words people use for me, I like conservationist the most.
Rahul: What were the challenges you faced when you started working on insects?
Mirtunjay: No social media. No smart phones. When I started working, it became a challenge to connect with people like today. One of the challenges was difficulty in listing and identification of the insects. As I wasn’t an expert, I started learning myself. Now a days social media platforms have different groups with experts who can help in identification. Another challenge was unavailability of funds.
Rahul: How many species have you documented till date from Jharkhand?
Mirtunjay: I have documented around 800 species of arthropods which includes both spiders and insects. I have divided my collections into 6 parts: spiders, flies and beetles, mantises and grasshoppers, Caterpillars, and moths and butterflies.
Rahul: I have read about your famous nature classes in various newspapers. Can you please throw some light on this and, other such initiatives and achievements? I would also like to know about your discovery which fetched you the prestigious “Limca Book of Records” in year 2016.
Mirtunjay: I am one of the founding members of Canary Eco Club. The name Canary has been taken from the name of the famous Canary Hill situated in the heart of Hazaribagh city. This hill never stops surprising me. Our club is mandated with creating awareness among school and college students regarding our nature: hills, forests and its hidden treasures (insects, spiders, etc.). I thought if there are yoga and dance classes, why can’t there be nature classes. We have kept a 3km walk around Canary Hill as a part of these classes where students also come across our butterflies and moths. Our club was also included in the panel of save water initiative by UN Water for the year 2013 which was declared as the International Year of Water Cooperation by United Nations. Canary Eco Club was awarded Paryavaran Puraskar (Environment Award) by Jharkhand Pollution Control Board in 2015. Our club organizes an annual programme, “Tribute to Canary”, every year in which various events are held for school and college students. One of my books, Spiders of Jharkhand, has recently been published by Jharkhand Biodiversity Board, Government of Jharkhand.
I am living in the vicinity of forests since childhood as my father was also a forest department employee. In 2016, while exploring forests of Hazaribagh, I discovered an unusual anthill with a height of 9.8 feet and width of 20 feet, regarded to be the biggest, which led Limca Book of Records to include my name in its list of record holders, whose experts also elucidated the age of the anthill. This anthill was found to be about 500 years old. My children feel proud in telling their friends about this record. My record can be accessed using the following link.
Rahul: What are your future plans?
Mirtunjay: I am planning to publish all of my findings in the form of a book. My major plan is to conduct a photography exhibition every year showcasing my findings of the insects and spiders of Jharkhand to the common public, mainly students so that they could be made aware of these hidden creatures around them.
Rahul Kumar is one of the Associate Editors of IE. He is working as Assistant Professor of Zoology at Department of Zoology, Sheodeni Sao College (Magadh University), Kaler-824127, Arwal, Bihar, India.
You can contact him at email@example.com
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