Farming Butterflies to Save the Rainforests, in part
Larry Orsak, Director Christensen Research Institute, PAPAU NEW GUINEA
Raising or collecting insects to sell is the only incentive many indigenous peoples have to save their tropical forests.
Virgin tropical forests are declining at an alarming rate - over half have been cleared in the last 40 years. The case for saving tropical forests is clear. Support comes from buying "products of the rainforest."
"Collecting tropical butterflies does not speed up their extinction."
The fact is, buying tropical insects for collections may be the best investment anyone makes in tropical forest protection. Papua New Guinea has some of the world's most desirable insects including two of the largest butterflies which are The Queen Alexandra's Birdwing and the Goliath Birdwing and it has the world's longest walking stick, largest katydid, and a weevil that grows a garden of lichens and mosses on its back!
Add to this 3000+ species of orchids, 10% of the world's rhododendrons, the coveted bird-of-paradise and more. To insure their future survival, PNG set up an entity to develop an insect resource program which farms insects. Due to its success it became a role model for many other butterfly farms and similar projects throughout the world.
Villagers collect butterflies and other insects from their forests to sell. Or they plant caterpillar food plants and sell the adult butterflies that develop on those "extra" food plants (a process known as "butterfly ranching.") Villagers realize that the forest can be a continual source of income.
That gives them great incentive to protect their areas. Money earned pays for children's schooling, medicine and simple living needs. They now have cash crops of butterflies which does not require forests clearing and land destruction.
They release 20% of all wildlife farmed back into the wild.
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