28th December 2011
As I was back in Siem Reap for a few days before to head to Bangkok, I checked with Lorna if I could spend 2 days with her at the Angkor Butterfly Centre, to learn about butterflies. Lorna is from the UK, currently volonteering at the Angkor Butterfly Centre. We had met a month before in Siem Reap when I was there to attend the angkor-photo festival. She welcomed me really well and was incredibly helpful, teaching me a great deal about this wonderful centre.
Angkor Butterfly Centre is located close to Siem Reap, Cambodia, in the Angkor temple area, on the way to the Bantley Srei temple.
It opened in 2009 and covers a surface of 400 square meters. It counts 30 different types of tropical plants and flowers and more than 35 species of butterflies, with an average of 300 butterflies flying under its protecting net every day. It has several little alleys surrounded by gorgeous plants in which the visitors can wander to look at the butterflies, photograph them and learn about the Butterfly Life Cycle.
Angkor Butterfly Centre works with 15 families of farmers living in the surrounding area. The families are taught to plant the trees which will attract butterflies. The butterflies come to these trees, and lay their eggs. Butterfly eggs are an easy prey for ants, frogs, birds and lizards in the wild. While only 15% of butterfly eggs make it to caterpillars in the wild, 90% of them survive when raised in a protected area.
I meet with Savai, one of these farmers. Here she is checking on eggs and explains me that she finds about 20 to 30 eggs everyday.
Once the eggs become caterpillars, Savai puts the caterpillars in a box on branches of the tree on which it was found, so that they can eat its leaves.
It takes about 2 weeks for the caterpillar to become a pupa. Once the caterpillars become pupae, Savai sells the pupae to the Angkor Butterfly Centre. The centre pays farmers 25 dollars for 150 pupae. Here is another participant to the project bringing her pupae to the centre.
This is a really substantial revenue, as a family can earn between 50 and 150 dollars per month this way. This is a good addition to the 50-60 dollars per month a farmer generally makes. The Angkor Butterfly Centre purchases the pupae with the money the visitors pay to visit the centre. In the future, once the export license is given to the Angkor Butterfly Centre, it will be able to export pupae to various countries and use this extra-money to buy more pupae from more families.
Once the pupae have been brought to the centre, the staff sticks them to wood branches one after the other. The glue used to stick the pupae is a special glue which is not toxic and doesn’t affect the butterflies’development. Lorna is studying the exact number of days that each pupa is taking to become a butterfly in this centre, and here she is writing down the date on which she is sticking them to the wood.
Once the export license authorisation is sorted out, this will be crucial information to know before to ship the pupae out, so that the pupae don’t become butterflies before to reach destination. The sticks are then placed in cages to let the pupae develop under protection. Here Pem just added a few more sticks to the cage.
It takes an average of 2 weeks for the pupae to become butterflies. Each specie of butterfly has pupae of different colours and shapes.
The centre has a separate area where it keeps eggs the staff finds, caterpillars, pupae, and a few other insects. The visitors can access this area to learn more about butterflies. The visitors can open the cages and observe the caterpillars and the pupae and talk with the staff to learn more about butterflies.
After 2 weeks, the pupae become butterflies. Every morning, the staff opens the cages to release the butterflies who came out of their pupa during the night. Visitors can also release butterflies, so coming in the morning makes the visit more interesting.
Sometimes, some butterflies need a bit of help to get released from their pupa. Here is Pem delicately helping one out.
Here are some of the butterflies you can see when visiting the centre:
Great Mormon (here a male one)
Angkor Butterfly Centre is a gorgeous place to come to between the visits of 2 temples. There is a café there and 2 wooden chairs where to seat and relax in the shade. When coming to Siem Reap to visit Angkor temples, pay them a visit too! The centre is opened from 9am to 5pm every day. Adult entrance ticket is 4 dollars, child 2 dollars.
Official website: http://www.angkorbutterfly.com/bbchome.html