Meet Ananya Mondal: Wikimedian of the Year 2021 Rich Media winner

(Sandip Das CC BY-SA 4.0)

This year’s seven Wikimedian of the Year award winners were announced today at the 2021 virtual Wikimania convening. Read the interview below with Ananya Mondal, recipient of the Rich Media Award. 

Ananya Mondal is known as the “Butterfly Wikimedian.” She started the Wiki Loves Butterfly project in 2016 after realizing that there was no “butterfly” article on her native Bengali Wikipedia

Since then, Ananya has led four editions of the campaign, which aims to add more information and images about butterfly species, particularly those of the eastern and north-eastern part of India, on Wikimedia projects. 

The campaign has resulted in over 2,600 images being added to Wikimedia Commons so far, capturing 428 different butterfly species and subspecies. 

An initiative started in 2021 – the Wikimedian of the Year Rich Media award recognizes an exceptional Wikimedian who contributes non-text content to our projects, including photography, video, and sound. These media constitute a vital and growing part of our movement and user experience across projects. 

Ananya gets the surprise call from Jimmy Wales

This recognition is one of seven awards made this year to celebrate contributors who have made an exceptional impact on our movement. The awards were announced at this year’s virtual Wikimania celebration by Wikipedia Founder Jimmy Wales (watch the announcement!). 

“Through Wiki Loves Butterflies, Ananya has not only exponentially grown the number of images of her favorite animal in the public domain, but she has created a fun and accessible way to welcome new people, especially students, into the movement. Her project has taken flight and become a symbol of the incredible potential of rich media collaborations within our movement.”

– Jimmy Wales

We spoke with Ananya to learn more about her experiences and perspectives on the Wikimedia movement. Here are some highlights: 

Q: Do you have a favorite butterfly?

I love all the butterflies — especially Yellow Gorgon Meandrusa payeni (Boisduval, 1836) for it’s brilliant shape, colour and texture.”

(Souvick Mukherjee CC BY-SA 4.0)

Q: How did Wiki Loves Butterfly get started? 

“I was always a nature-fascinated person. In the course of my camping career, I had to attend many treks and expeditions in hill, mountain, and forest regions. While staying and roaming in the hilly jungle terrain, I frequently encountered many butterflies of brilliant colour and texture that fascinated my eyes. Then I thought of learning some of their names, nature etc. That is the beginning of my interest in butterflies, which grew in volume bit by bit. 

I started my Wikimedia journey in 2015, when I discovered there was no butterfly article in Bengali Wikipedia, and butterfly pictures were missing too. In 2016, I decided to start a scientifically-based project work on butterflies on Wikimedia sites, and thus, Wiki Loves Butterfly (WLB) got started.”

Q: What are the positive impacts you have seen as a result of the campaign? 

“In the course of the last four years of the WLB project, I saw increasing interest and awareness from people about butterflies and the Wikimedia movement. I got connected with many butterfly enthusiasts in different parts of the country and butterfly scientists and resource persons too. I brought them into the project and into the Wikimedia movement. 

Increasing butterfly and Wikimedia awareness among common people through our social media platforms is one great impact of this campaign. This Wikimedia Foundation-funded WLB project greatly supports young enthusiasts of butterflies. They get the opportunity to move to distant and famous butterfly hotspots and document butterflies in areas previously beyond their reach.”

Q: What’s next for you? Is there another campaign you would like to start in the future?

“In the future, I wish to grow the Wiki Loves Butterfly further through more extensive documentation and coverage in other parts of India.”

Q: What motivates you to contribute to Wikimedia projects?

“The main motivation here is the free knowledge pattern and knowledge sharing — a grand noble purpose that our celebrated Wikimedia movement is ushering in human society. It also increases and develops global public awareness regarding butterflies, which in the long run helps support butterfly conservation.”


Congratulations, Ananya! 

About the 2021 Wikimedian of the Year Awards

The Wikimedian of the Year is an annual award that honours contributors to Wikimedia projects, including Wikipedia editors, to highlight major achievements within the Wikimedia movement in the previous year. The tradition dates back to 2011 and has evolved since then in dynamic ways to welcome and celebrate Wikimedians from different backgrounds and experiences. This year’s celebration is bigger and more inclusive than ever before, recognizing seven exceptional contributors to the Wikimedia movement in six categories, including Newcomer of the Year, 20th Year Honouree, Rich Media and Tech contributors, and Honourable Mentions, as well as the Wikimedian of the Year. 

*This interview has been edited for clarity and length.