Thursday, October 6, 2011

Pins and Needles 25 ~ "Killing butterflies to save butterflies"

Hey ya'll

Would you believe, it's been less than a week since I last updated??? Well... it sure feels like much longer than that. In fact I feel almost like I have not written anything substantial in quite a long time... no matter, I do have some topic for conversation today and - although some might find it a little bit controversial - I do believe many might have some pre-conceived misconceptions on the idea. Killing butterflies. Now, I suppose when such a topic comes to mind it is only natural that the first impression one gets is of crazy insect-collectors, their nets and cases ever at the ready to forge their way into virgin forests to snatch - straight out of the air - and plunder one of Mother Nature's most precious of living jewels. Indeed, this is not always untrue, and butterfly smuggling is quite a huge problem in some countries after all (one need only read Jessica Speart's  Winged Obsession to see for oneself) However, while some of the myths do hold true for certain species of endangered butterflies, the large and majestic birdwings come to mind, collecting of many other butterfly species from the wild is not exactly against the law... in fact the entire hobby of butterfly collection - expressed through sales of mounted specimens, butterfly exhibits and butterfly zoos - have given rise to an entire industry, all surrounding the collection of butterflies. Anyway to keep things short and sweet, here are some myths and facts about the butterfly collecting industry.

Myth: Collecting butterflies can significantly reduce their numbers in the wild. 
Fact: If one could over-collect butterflies, they probably will, but the matter of the fact is that it is quite difficult to over-collect when it comes to many insects species. Quite simply the reproductive rates of insects - especially when compared to that of other animals - are really quite exponentially higher and insects, therefore have that much more chances of surviving in the wild. Decreasing number of butterfly species are in fact attributed - not to collecting - but to deforestation and other forms of human activities out there... which brings us to our next myth, 

Myth: Collecting of butterflies goes the same way as the collection of any other animals as trophies and can be seen as a disrespect and disregard towards the bounty of Nature. 
Fact: If one goes about it the right way, the butterfly-collecting industry can perhaps be one that does, quite the opposite in fact. The industry of butterfly-collecting has given birth to a whole other myriad of mini industries, butterfly farming being one them. The farming of butterflies - as mounted or live specimens - has made it possible for the display of many of these amazing insects in avenues such as natural history museums and butterfly zoo. This in turn, has made it possible for many iconic species to be used as poster-insects for many conservation and awareness campaigns that would foster greater understanding and respect for the natural world.

Myth: The collecting of butterflies has given rise to many illegal activities including indegenous poaching of endangered species for personal collection.
Fact: While this may be true in some sense of the word, there is - to date - no one specific species of butterfly whose population decline can be directly linked to collecting of individual specimens by natives in the wild. Consider, however, the conservation incentive program implemented in many of these countries where birdwing butterflies remain prized by collectors world-wide. In fact, many indigenous communities have taken to "butterfly-ranching" a form of butterfly farming that involves the cultivation of butterflies' host plants and the collection of adult insects for sale. Natives make the money they want but at the same time realize the importance of maintaining the forests for their livelihood when they learn of the insect's (their cash-crop) dependence to it for survival. Indeed, rather the collection of a few individual butterflies over the clearing of forest land for other purposes.

But I guess, at the end of the day, it really comes down to what one believes about such things and all that. Though, I really do not see the point in making such a fuss over the collection of insects when one still sits and sups happily over that chicken wing or leg of mutton... doesn't seem quite right does it. I do believe, personally that a bird or a mammal would be higher up the sentience scale than an insect. But oh well.

Source: Orsak, L (2011), "Killing Butterflies to Save Butterflies" at <>

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