October 12, 2017 Calgary Zoo

How butterfly farming saves forest habitat

It’s that time of year- where the butterfly gardens settle down for the winter.

Beauty soars in the spring and summer at the Calgary Zoo- that’s when butterflies return to the Garden Gallery in the ENMAX Conservatory. These insects are a favourite at the zoo, and they’re also seasonal; many zoo visitors know to keep any eye out for the flutter of new wings in late April and early May, and that they leave again in October. Why are these butterflies so important?

The butterflies are gone for the rest of 2017.

The cold weather makes it dangerous for the butterflies even inside- they tend to fly towards the cold glass. Because of this, our visitors will see a decrease in butterflies until the cold season is over.

Why are these butterflies so important?

These butterflies aren’t your local variety. This year, more than 10,000 chrysalis, representing 80-100 species, will be shipped from Costa Rica and Southeast Asia. The significance of bringing these insects from so far across the world isn’t just to impress Calgarians with new species, but to support international butterfly farming.
In countries where the native rainforest is being destroyed from logging and other forms of agriculture, butterfly farming is an alternate way to maintain the forest while protecting the native vegetation.

Monarch butterfly at the Calgary Zoo

Monarch butterfly in Garden Gallery in the ENMAX Conservatory at the Calgary Zoo.

“By sourcing our chrysalis from butterfly farms we are helping to support local farmers in Costa Rica and Southeast Asia as well as supporting the preservation of precious rainforests,” says Corinne Hannah, Horticulturist, Calgary Zoo. “We hope that when visitors enjoy the immersion of our butterfly garden, they can learn and appreciate more about where these classic pollinators came from and why we source them from where we do.”

Locals raise their butterflies in containment areas so that farmed butterflies do not impact the natural population of butterflies. The farmers are also encouraged to grow native plants that will be a natural food source for butterfly larva. This is a good example of sustainable preservation, versus choosing to strip valuable forest and all that inhabits it. Not only are these farms saving forest, but the butterfly areas also contribute to the aesthetic beauty of the communities they exist in.

No matter the weather here in Calgary, the ENMAX Conservatory is always a beautiful place to take a moment to relax. Whether you’re butterfly spotting or taking a causal stroll through the Garden Gallery, remember there’s so much more than meets the eye.

Look forward to the spring, when these powerful pollinators re-emerge in numbers to dazzle the guests of the Calgary Zoo!

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