We have seen the consequences of a pandemic on businesses of all kinds. For some, the burden is twofold because not only do they have to manage labor costs, but they also have other living animals or creatures to take care of.
One example we saw first hand is Farm in town, which had to resort to selling souvenirs after ticket sales from locals and tourists were interrupted due to quarantine. The cost of food and medicine for the animals began to be entered into their cash reserves.
It was, and still is, a desperate time for them and other similar companies, but they were experimenting with multiple ways to generate revenue.
Much like the Farm in the city, this shrine had more than care staff. During a pandemic, Melaka is a refuge for butterflies and reptiles experienced its darkest day in 30 years of work.
After they had to reduce labor, butterfly eggs were left undefended, and the host plants began to dry out, leaving caterpillars and larvae without resources. To prevent further loss, the team had to make the painful decision to euthanize 3,000 butterfly larvae.
But the fight is not over.
Calling the public for help
To cope with the crisis, the shelter is maintaining its first butterfly puppet adoption program. Includes several adoption sets ranging from RM20 to RM55, the most expensive of which comes with plant and other terrarium building materials.
Beginner adopters can opt for the RM20 kit, which offers a butterfly doll and a masonry jar with a wire attached to a lid to which the doll can be attached. Within 3-10 days, a butterfly will emerge from the doll, ready to be released into the wild.
The pupa is the third phase of the life cycle of a butterfly (it passes from eggs to caterpillars, pupae and butterflies). The dolls are bred in the Melaka Butterfly and Reptile Shelter Laboratory, and all sales from the program will be focused on butterfly research and conservation in Malaysia.
In addition to compensating for lost ticket sales, the sanctuary also maintains a program to address the findings a study from the University of Malaya. The study found that by 2100, 20% to 40% of butterfly species will become extinct in Southeast Asia due to changes in land use in the region. Encouraging this adoption, the refuge hopes to play a greater role in maintaining the species in the ecosystem.
I decided to be a butterfly mom
Intrigued by this initiative, I asked how adoption works. After purchase, the adoption kit will be sent within 6-12 days. A clear set of instructions on caring for the hood will be included in the package.
Since the shrine is interested in butterfly conservation, it would not make sense to provide Malaysians with an invasive species for release. Still, I decided to calm down with my own research.
Indeed, I was able to confirm that the butterfly is a haircut (Parthenos sylvia) that I would receive is not a threat to the existing ecosystem. This species is actually native to the countryside, and in general, more butterflies lead to a healthier environment and ecosystems because they are natural pollinators and pest controllers.
Satisfied, I bought a beginner set RM20. The cost of delivery for the trip from Melake to Cheras, KL where I live was about 10 RM, but it would vary depending on your exact location.
My first greetings
The doll came in a small plastic container, enclosed between two layers of sponge and a cotton pad as it was attached to a needle.
Knowing how sensitive he was, I was pretty nervous trying to attach him to the string attached to the lid, fearing I would accidentally crush the doll. Much like someone would treat a newborn, I was extremely gentle, refraining from over-touching the leafy texture of the butterfly doll haircut.
When that was done, I put the jar in the closet, away from direct sunlight, and it blurred the interior every day. Placing the doll in direct sunlight or insufficient fogging will lead to its underdevelopment. In that case, it may never appear as a butterfly, instead dying in its cocoon.
I decided to leave the lid a little unscrewed for more ventilation, as the dolls breathe through holes in their sides called spirals. It is not recommended to leave the lid fully open as it may attract predator like an ant. With the setup finished and the new daily routine you have to stick to, all that’s left is to wait.
5 days later…
The next few days were pretty flawless and I didn’t notice much change. But on the fifth night, on closer inspection, I noticed that the doll had become transparent and that stripes were visible on it, so I had a feeling that the butterfly would be coming soon.
The next morning I opened the closet for a full-fledged butterfly resting on the side of the jar, with its wings already dried. I felt relieved and excited when I saw that it had developed well, but sadly that I had missed the final stage of the process.
With it ready to release, I took it outside. As soon as we started moving, it came to life, spinning around the jar. I chose a flower area in my neighborhood as a place to take off, thinking it would eat him up right away as well.
Contrary to my assumption, however, it is rare for butterflies to eat anything on the same day they appear. This is probably why he soon went with the flowers to explore his new world.
All in all, I was quite proud that his metamorphosis was successful under the care of my beginners. This adoption program gave me an experience I would never have otherwise gained, and the tools and instructions provided were enough to guide me.
It should be noted that, since you are dealing with a living organism, there will be unpredictability. You may not end up with a butterfly for a variety of reasons, sometimes even if you pay the most attention to it.
If this happens, the shelter is open to replace your hood with another one for free, but you have to pay the shipping costs.
As mentioned earlier, the goal of the program is to ensure that the species can continue to thrive in the wild. Releasing the butterfly after it comes out of the cocoon is part of the process. The kits sold by the shrine do not provide you with the proper equipment to keep butterflies as a pet.
Butterflies need enough flying space and food to keep indoors. Unless you are an experienced hobbyist or butterfly caregiver in your time, you would probably lack the necessary knowledge and tools to keep a butterfly as a pet. Therefore, it is best to follow the shrine’s instructions and release the butterflies as soon as they appear.
For those with more advanced knowledge and who have the equipment to care for multiple pupae at once, the Melaka butterfly and reptile sanctuary offers a two-piece doll set for the RM30 without a jar. A butterfly haircut is not the only species you can get from a shelter, but the seasons affect what species you get.
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The soft shelter for butterflies and reptiles also allows you to “adopt“Catching turtles, snakes, frogs, peacocks, alligators, etc. The funds will be used to provide them with the necessities they need, and adopters will receive several benefits depending on their level of support.
However, adopting these animals is much more expensive, and the butterfly adoption program is much cheaper and more attractive due to its interactivity. In the short term, it is an initiative that could soften the impact of the pandemic on the shelter, but it is probably not a viable move.
Because the butterfly adoption experience is so fleeting, you may not find it affordable. I have personally enjoyed it, but it is unlikely that I will soon adopt another hood, and many other beginners may feel the same way.
Therefore, the refuge may need to consider other revenue-generating flows if the pandemic continues to rage. With a limited number of staff on hand, perhaps one way would be to maintain simple live educational broadcasts that people can pay to attend. It’s a strategy the Farm in town has been trying for months and seems to be sparking decent interest.