Cam­bo­dian hearts aflut­ter over strug­gling but­ter­flies

The China Post - - LIFE -

There was a time when Khorn Savai avoided cater­pil­lars, con­vinced they would make her ill. Now she ac­tively seeks them out.

Khorn is one of a num­ber of lo­cals trained to breed but­ter­flies by Ban­teay Srey But­ter­fly Cen­tre, the largest sanc­tu­ary of its kind in Southeast Asia.

In the gar­den sur­round­ing her wooden stilt house on the out­skirts of Siem Reap, her keen eyes know ex­actly where to spot the tiny eggs that will be­come cater­pil­lars, be­fore trans­form­ing into one of Cam­bo­dia’s many stunning, but strug­gling, but­ter­fly species.

“Be­cause I had no work, I de­cided to do this. Now I am used to it, I’m not afraid of cater­pil­lars any more,” she tells AFP.

Those who step in­side the sanc­tu­ary are greeted by a dizzy­ing ar­ray of colors, as dozens of vi­brant but­ter­fly species flut­ter through the air or nestle on ver­dant fo­liage.

But but­ter­flies out­side sanc­tu­ary are not so lucky.

Ram­pant il­le­gal log­ging and tim­ber smug­gling have dev­as­tated Cam­bo­dia’s forests, deal­ing a blow to many wildlife species — in­clud­ing but­ter­flies.

In its haste to de­velop the im­pov­er­ished na­tion, the gov­ern­ment has been crit­i­cized for al­low­ing well-con­nected firms to clear hun­dreds of thou­sands of hectares of for­est land — in­clud­ing in pro­tected zones — for ev­ery­thing from rub­ber and sugar cane plan­ta­tions to hy­dropower dams.

The WWF es­ti­mates that Cam­bo­dia has lost around a quar­ter of its forests since 1973.

“All around the world they have the same prob­lem — but­ter­flies are not in­creas­ing, they are de­creas­ing,” Lux Phem, Ban­teay Srea’s manager, told AFP.


In a bid to pro­tect some of the coun­try’s most en­dan­gered species the sanc­tu­ary en­listed the help of lo­cal vil­lagers, who are pro­vided with a breed­ing cage and taught how to rec­og­nize some of the dozens of na­tive species.

In peak sea­son, vil­lagers like Khorn can earn up to US$150 a month.

“I love this job, I am happy be­cause it is not hard work,” she said, be­fore adding: “If we don’t breed them, there won’t be any be­cause of the de­for­esta­tion.”


(Top) This photo taken on March 22 shows but­ter­flies fly­ing in the gar­den of Ban­teay Srey But­ter­fly Cen­tre on the out­skirts of Siem Reap prov­ince. (Above) This photo taken on March 22 shows tourists look­ing at a but­ter­fly in the gar­den of Ban­teay Srey But­ter­fly Cen­tre.

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