Mission to keep animals alive

  • Nation
  • Saturday, 25 Apr 2020

GEORGE TOWN: A menagerie in Teluk Bahang with over 150 animal species is struggling to keep the gene pool alive.

Completely closed and devoid of revenue during the movement control order (MCO) period, the zoologists and horticulturists have only one mission now – not to let any of the species collected from around the world die out in the menagerie.

From butterflies to stick insects and exotic cockroaches to rarely seen lizards, the keepers care for them as they wait for better days with the lifting of the MCO.

Entopia by Penang Butterfly Farm chief operating officer BT Chin said its all-Malaysian butterfly population of about 80 species had shrunk by over 70%, but his team was working hard to preserve each individual species.

“Butterflies live for only about two weeks. If they die and we don’t save any eggs, we will lose them. It will be a tough task to enter the jungles to find the species again for new stock.

“Our team still collects the pupae from our breeding stations and hang them up to grow. The young butterflies are then released to mate and ensure sufficient parental stock.”

Chin said on normal days, there would be close to 10,000 butterflies flapping around the park.

Floral duty: Entopia by Penang Butterfly Farm zoology operation senior officer Melissa Yung, 28, watering flowers at the park.Floral duty: Entopia by Penang Butterfly Farm zoology operation senior officer Melissa Yung, 28, watering flowers at the park.

“But we are reducing the population to cut costs.

“They feed on the flower nectar of almost 100 plant species here and we replace about 1,500 of the potted plants every two weeks to ensure sufficient supply, ” he added.

The park recently invited The Star to view the tedious but systematic process of breeding butterflies to preserve the gene pool.

The zoologists, said Chin, were also looking after about 80 species of reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates, moving some animals into smaller enclosures where less movement would help them preserve energy.

“We have lizards, snakes, frogs, fishes and dozens of insect species to look after and these cannot be left to die.

“We will replenish the population in the garden when the farm reopens.

“The effort to ensure sustainability includes growing plants that supply food for butterflies and caterpillars, ” he said.

Last month, the Malaysian Association of Zoological Parks and Aquaria had issued a public appeal for the government to help privately-owned zoological parks preserve their collection of species.

With many set up for more than three decades, the association said such parks preserved even critically endangered species and would face long-term difficulties to keep the animals alive.

For now, Chin and his team face no problems travelling to and from the park.

“At the roadblocks, the police will let us pass when they see the letter stating that we are heading to care for our animals, ” he said.

A support letter from the Wildlife and National Parks Department also helped his team commute to the menagerie without incident, he added.

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butterfly farm , MCO , covid-19 ,


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