The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

typescript - memoir of time in the Naga Hills as a Deputy Commissioner, 1919-1920

caption: hobbies - butterfly collecting
medium: articles
person: Cantlie/ Keith
date: 1919-1920
form: private collection
refnum: loaned by Dr Audrey Cantlie
text: At Aberdeen I had taken the Botany class and the Zoology class but found that Brandt's trees, a huge volume on Indian trees, was too complicated for me when far from an Indian Museum. I tried ferns purchasing a standard work on them but species are largely determined by the spores and sporangia and sporangia appear only at certain seasons, and furthermore the study of sporangia and indeed of ferns themselves is not attractive so I did not pursue the study. Birds were not plentiful in the woods so far as I could judge. There remained butterflies. The hills of Assam and Burma are among the most prolific in the world. Lt. C.I.Tytler had commanded a battalion of the Indian Army at Manipur and at Imphal. He had employed collectors there and in the Naga Hills, formed an immense collection and wrote papers on new and rare species to the Bombay Natural History Society. I was not a member and did not make any enquiry about any standard work on butterflies. A tea planter in Cachar, Antram, asked me to collect and returned the captures made by me placed in cocked-hat envelopes named and with a request if they were rare or uncommon that I send him a number of examples. He evidently sold to a dealer in Europe. As butterflies emerged in April and if double brooded in September but if single brooded in June and my tours did not extend beyond April and save for short trips did not resume until mid-October; my collections save in the environs of Kohima were for limited periods. I did not employ catchers as my enjoyment was the hunting instinct. My wife collected with me when on tour. On my transfer to the plains I gave up collecting as one gets the reputation of an eccentric. Butterflies are only in profusion in the Reserved Forests and I had too much to do to allow visits to these remote areas, while elsewhere species are rather few and of common kinds. Not until 1936 did I collect a little in the wooded areas of the Khasi Hills, remote from the bare hills of the high plateau and then only on short tours in April or late October. As Member, Revenue Tribunal, and as Chairman, Public Service commission, an occasional day or two came my way but not until I had retired from all work in 1947 did I make trips in the Khasi and Naga Hills and also made purchases from the dealer who employed village catchers in the wooded area of hill slopes in Cherra State and exported to Europe. I provided myself with some standard works on Indian butterflies But no dissecting of the male reproductive organs was done by me until after leaving India. Then came the constant regular visits to the Natural History Museum at South Kensington. Tytler (afterwards Sir Edward Tytler) had an immense collection from the Naga Hills and from Manipur (where he was stationed) and also from Burma where he went as G.O.C. Sepoys in the hills forts collected for him on payment. Purchases from Java, Sumatra, Malaya were made and acquisitions from Gilgit (taken by himself). Besides a large number set in boxes there were 260 biscuit tins full of papered specimens mostly Lycaenids which I identified, sometimes by dissection, and catalogued in later years taking a tin out at a time and doing the work at home. Discovery of the name first given - the first name has priority - is a highly recondite and intellectual pursuit though of no economic importance to humanity. I will return again to the subject when I briefly describe my life after retirement in my last folder. To me the great pleasure was the chase in the woods.