Butterflies are not just another pretty face. Like bees, these colorful creatures are also an integral part of the interdependence and interconnectedness of nature as they too pollinate flowers while they flit around drinking delicious floral nectars. In a super biodiverse ecosystem like the Amazon Rainforest, butterflies are super important for keeping the natural garden in full bloom and abundance, and that’s why there are so many different sizes, shapes and exotic colors of them adding magic and wonder to an already paradise like atmosphere.
But with the Amazon under assault from everything from oils spills to clear-cutting, some of the most beautiful butterflies are becoming endangered as the specific plants they rely on, and in turn help propagate, become rarer and rarer in a cycle that could lead to the extinction of both.
At the Pilpintuwasi Butterfly Farm and Animal Orphanage just outside of Iquitos, Peru, which has been run by Austrian expat Gundrun Sperrer for more than 10 years, a variety of gorgeous but endangered butterflies are raised in captivity and then released into the wild to add to the natural population and help pollinate it’s reciprocal host plants. Over the years, the operation also became a home to orphaned jungle animals that were found injured or being sold in markets and were brought to Sperrer to take care of.
I visited Pilpintuwasi earlier this year and was guided through the tightly run butterfly farm and animal rescue by one of the half dozen seasonal volunteers, who come from all over the work to get hands on experience in Amazonian wildlife care. In the process I took some photos of not just the brightly hued butterflies within the huge netted nursery but of the monkeys, parrots and other jungle critters that now make their home there.
Ocean Malandra divides his time between the Redwood forest of Northern California and the Amazon jungle of South America and writes the EarthRx environmental column for Paste.