Wednesday, October 31, 2012

They Touch Butterflies, Don’t They?

As most of our readers know by now, “Flight of the Butterflies” is playing at the Boeing IMAX Theater in 3-D to the delight of audiences of all ages. The movie tells the story of Dr. Fred Urquhart’s 40-year quest to uncover the Monarchs’ migration secrets.

SPOILER ALERT: Read no further if you haven’t seen the film and would like to discover the story on your own. But be sure to come back and read this article after seeing the film!

In the course of the movie, there are several scenes showing people actually touching butterflies – a definite no-no in our Tropical Butterfly House. So what’s the difference?

Like all Animal Care Staff, the citizen scientists in the film were trained on how to handle these delicate creatures without hurting them or damaging their wings. Butterfly wing tagging is performed with the least amount of handling necessary and the butterflies don’t appear to be encumbered by the tags. Currently there is no better way to track a butterfly’s migratory patterns, although the tags have gotten smaller. Citizen scientists are essential to information gathering. By tagging of a small percentage of the Monarch population, scientists learn a great deal about this species. This data helps us to better understand butterflies and their migration patterns.

In our Tropical Butterfly House, we have no good reason to touch butterflies with our fingers. Even Animal Care Staff carefully gather butterflies from the emerging window with forceps and release them as gently as possible. When forceps are use, Staff is trained to gather all four wings firmly but efficiently to cause as little stress to the butterfly as possible.

We have so much to learn from these amazing insects, it is only fair that we treat them with respect while they are in our care.

No comments:

Post a Comment