Sunday, September 26, 2010

Jumalon Butterfly Sanctuary Tour: The Cages

Aside from the open-air and free-to-all-butterflies garden, the Jumalon Sanctuary does have cages after all. And lucky I got to step or reach into all of them! Thanks to Osman. He told us that they would not normally allow tour groups to enter those cages for the ‘safety and security’ of the different butterfly stages that are always in progress somewhere in the garden. Fact is, 10 people in the cage, I would consider already too many. What more if there were busloads of youngsters hehe! So I was indeed lucky I planned to see the sanctuary at its most unvisited day and time.

Osman led us to enter a cage in the middle of the garden and started showing and naming the many colorful butterflies in there. We asked why the cage while outside there were also butterflies. He said that some of these butterflies were being reared in a controlled area (the cage) to maximize breeding as they are either rare or can’t breed easily. In fact he says, they even have to remove and transfer some of the caterpillars and pupae to another controlled area so that the flutterers develop to full adults away from hungry predators.

Ah there were so many of them in different sizes, colors and speed. Speed? Yes, in terms of eluding my camera lens. Gosh, now I must salute all folks who take good photos of butterflies. It is never quick and easy. But the learnings continued. Butterfly eggs were abundant in various plants. And tiny as they are, they too come in different colors and agrupations. Some are clustered while others are laid individually.

My fellow tourist, the girl, shrieked at the sight of a caterpillar by a leaf swaying just inches away from my face. And more lessons! Osman told us that a caterpillar is actually a totally different living thing than a butterfly, yet, as we all know, in time the creeper would cocoon its self to become a pupa and become a lovely butterfly. Some caterpillar colors are camouflage but they also indicate what their butterfly look would be. Ah, here’s more. He told us that not all the tiny spines on caterpillars would irritate the skin, though most will, as it is their defense mechanism.

He explained at length why we itch and I cannot anymore recall the exact scientific process that occurs in our skin upon contact. All I remember is when a caterpillar gets in contact with our skin, it is at first not itchy (as those tiny spines are just either laying flat or even above tour body hair. But when we rub it, voila! The chemical reaction continues and we get rashes. Osman says, the best way to avoid the irritation is to blow at the part of skin that got in contact with a caterpillar so those spines would be removed! And all the while, Osman was holding a caterpillar as he spoke! Wow!

Since the topic was on caterpillars, he guided us out of the cage and to what seems like a workshop with no walls. There are aquarium-like glass boxes with leaves and branches inside. He showed us more caterpillars in different sizes. Some were crawling by the leaves and tiny branches some were gnawing at the leaves. Hmm, they eat mighty fast! I asked if they always have to transfer all caterpillars and pupae to this area. He said they only choose some of the healthiest as there cannot be too many in a box. Another learning for me… He told us that caterpillars are a good example of one of Darwin’s theories… ‘natural selection’ (survival of the fittest). When they sense that there are too many of them, they eat the weakest to ensure that there is enough food for those who remain standing (ay, crawling pala)! Yes, all caterpillars are cannibals ‘as needed’! Hmm, did I learn about these in grade school? I don’t remember hehe! But now I know, yey!

There were pupae too amongst the leaves and branches inside the glass boxes! Osman told us to look closely, as surely there would be full butterflies there too. And indeed there were. I saw black ones with bright purple and white bands in the wings. He explained that those should have just hatched a few minutes ago. Wowowow! Too bad we were late just a few minutes.

Still on the pupa topic, he pointed to a cage with finer wire mesh. First I thought, they were selling souvenir pendants in the shape of pupae coated with gold-plating. But when we got closer, Osman told us they were live and healthy pupae of one of those butterflies we earlier talked about. OMG, they were real shining gold in color! So I asked how come they color themselves gold when that would be attractive to predators. He educated us that on the contrary, being gold was a protection for this specie! He explained that their being shiny and gold is meant to “monsterize” their appearance such that when birds and other predators see them, they look like big gleaming eyes of big animals! Wow again!

Lastly, as we were about to move on to the gallery, Osman gave us another uncommon opportunity. He took out some of the newly emerged black butterflies from the glass boxes and gave one each to us. Learning again… with its wings clipped, you hold a butterfly by the inner tip of the wings near the body so it could not make any wing movements that could hurt itself. And we walked the entire length of the garden towards the other side of the house (left if you emerged from the house door). Ah, those were beautiful butterflies in our hands but very fragile. It felt like I was carrying a very thin sheet of glass that could break at the slightest vibration!

I told him that some “butterfly powder” were transferring to my skin, so he told me not to press very hard. And this was another realization. He told us again that those are called scales and continued that no butterfly or moth scale can make anybody blind – contrary to what most people esp the old folks believe. He says even his grandmother and mother also believed in that misnomer and kept telling them as children to avoid the “powder”. He then started telling us the chemical composition of a butterfly’s scale and stressed that none would make anyone blind. The most would probably be an irritation as can any powder or foreign object do to our eyes, but not blindness. Wow again!

Alright, we released the butterflies inside the other cage and they joined many others fluttering around. For fun, he told us to close our eyes and make a wish as we released them. Ah this cage had more of those species with elaborately shaped wings. Most are bigger and darker but have brightly colored bands, dots or patches.

Then a butterfly landed on my left chest and inched towards my shoulder and neck. I froze hehehe and Osman removed it. Wohoa! He said “she likes you”! As we all laughed he said “its not a joke, the butterfly probably smelled something in you so she landed to investigate or even taste it”. I protested saying “but I took a bath before coming here”! And he continued with “excuse me, butterflies are not like flies nor other insects that thrive on decaying matter. They only go for nectar or the likes, that’s why we put honey in those sponges in the garden to feed them. She crept towards your neck probably to taste what she smelled”. The other visitor asked “how do they taste things”. And he said “via very sensitive parts in their tiny feet”!

And he went on telling us there is a certain cologne for the ladies that some butterflies are attracted to. What brand? Ah, I’m not telling here and now. Go there yourself and ask Osman or his elder sister Ma’am Humaida! Well, for the boys, I can tell you that a certain butterfly specie gets attracted to Bvlgari Pour Homme… the picture above is proof hehe!

Let's go to the gallery?!

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