Sunday, December 5, 2010

Exploring Nature with Orni and Friends at the Penang Butterfly Farm!

The sky was gray and the rain fell down in droves but despite the bad weather, the some hundreds of attendees of the Penang Butterfly Farm's official mascot launching event were determined not to let something as little as a spot of bad weather ruin their day!

Crowds of Visitors at the main pavillion of the Penang Butterfly Farm official Mascot Launch
The event took place as a series of pavillions placed around the visitor's carpark of the butterfly farm with the main pavillion - housing the stage, audience seats and later, the live insect exhibits - taking up the majority of the setting and, to the right hand side, smaller exhibits including food vendors and a medium sized butterfly aviary featuring the endangered Yellow Birdwing (troides helena) butterfly which is also the insect featured on the logo of Penang Butterfly Farm.

Bring back the Yellow Birdwings! A butterlfy aviary to raise awareness on this endangered butterfly species

Children from many schools around Penang attended the event and took instantaneously to the mascots and their performances on stage!
And so did I! This is Orni, the butterfly looking slightly large around the bottom! Time to cut back on the nectar big boy!
...and Juro! Orni's self-conscious younger brother

But for me, what must have been the most exciting part of the day was the opportunity to interact physically with so many of the exotic creatures who live at the farm and even, overcome some of my fears! In the later part of the day, the seats in the main pavillion were cleared in favour of rows and rows of tables upon which were set live exhibits of some of the farms creepy inhabitants.
These included caterpillars, of course. The larval stages of butterflies and moths and the variety ranged from colorful and spiky, like this Cethosia Biblis caterpillar

To elegant and feathery, like this caterpillar of the Archduke butterfly.
There, kids and visitors were allowed to learn (but not touch!) more about these wonderful insects! 
For example, how some caterpillars, like this Common Rose larva advertise their toxicity with bright colours

while others, like the larvae of the endangered Yellow Birdwing attempt to look as large and scary as they possibly can!
But more impressive perhaps was the live chrysalis display! Hanging from the multiple branches of a potted plant were the golden and iridescent chrysalids of over a dozen butterfly species, amongst some that I managed to identify were the Idea Leuconoe, Danaus, and Cethosia Biblis chrysalids.

The magnificent Chrysalid Tree

This Danaus Butterfly chrysalis was pale green with little golden spots

and this strange, irregular shaped one will hatch into the beautiful Malay Lacewing butterfly.

But my favourite was of the Common Crow butterfly, which was so reflective I could see myself in its surface!
And then came the meet-and-greet with some of the more sinister looking occupants of Penang Butterfly Farm. If you recall, in my earlier post I said I would attempt to overcome my fear and pick up a scorpion. Well, here it is.

Getting up-close and personal with a scorpion! It wasn't all-together unpleasant but it wasn't a 'good-feeling' either.

The Giant Millipede. Which felt like having a zliplock bag on your arm or a strip of velcroe on account of all the tiny little legs. Not exactly my cup of tea but at least I didn't have to worry about it sticking a poisonous barb into me!

And then, the highlight of the day and I owe this all to Michael for giving me the tour and Mei Lee for answering all my questions as she worked (I know it can be quite annoying with someone hovering around you as you do your job but in all fairness I offered to help); a tour on the back-stage operation of the Penang Butterfly Farm. Indeed I got to see some of the breeding cages, the plant nurseries and even, some of the wild-grown host plants that have attracted larvae of their own. 

boxes of hundreds of butterfly chrysalids, ready to be sold to, or exhibted at butterfly houses all around the world!
A breeding cage housing walking stick insects! The babies were as small as a broken mechanical pencil nib and I learnt that with some species, eggs can take as long as a year to hatch!
Of course being "back-stage" also meant that I got to say hello to some of the occupants. This is a walking leaf insect, and as its name suggests, it feels and looks just as if a leaf had fallen from the tree and landed atop my hand. Very gentle.
All in all, I would say I had a wonderful day and that the Penang Butterfly Farm Mascot Launching event was not just one that was enjoyable but extremely informative and eye opening as well. I'm sure more than a fair-share of a little boy or girl will go back with a treasure trove of knowledge from his or her experiences there. But before I sign off, thanks Michael once again, for the tour and the souveniers and, to all the people of Penang Butterfly Farm, good job on an extremely successful event and an amazing operation!
And look who missed me so much he had to follow me home!


Sydia said...

so envy~~
i wish i was there...
too bad i'm having exam tomoro~
i miss u orni,tacca,juro,dagon n toro~
n u cyren~
how lucky u r being able to b thr~
i think u enjoy it right?
how envy~

Cyren said...

Hahahah yes! It was amazing :D

Nature Rambles said...

What a great place to visit! Thanks for posting the caterpillar pictures. Amazing to see the variety. We do get to see the Birdwing on the outskirts of the city. The caterpillar does look scary!