If you have ever visited the F. Jean MacLeod Butterfly Gallery here at Science North, you would have likely encountered between 400 and 600 free flying butterflies. All of those butterflies are shipped to Science North every two weeks from the Philippines, Malaysia, El Salvador and Costa Rica. We need to replenish our butterflies every two weeks because, for the most part, that’s how long butterflies live. The butterflies are shipped to Science North as pupae or chrysalis.
One of our pupae suppliers is El Bosque Nuevo, or “The New Forest”, in Guanacaste province, Costa Rica.
El Bosque Nuevo was established in 1995 with the help of Florida businessman John Fazzini and others who provided support in the form of loans, legal guidance, scientific support and administrative services. The goal was to provide subsistence to farmers with an opportunity to administer their own natural resources while protecting the environment and to provide their families with a good income and a promising future. El Bosque Nuevo specifically recruited families because butterfly farming allows its workers to care for their homes and children while they work.
Originally, the El Bosque Nuevo consisted of 91 hectares of land: 41 hectares were clear-cut land and 50 hectares were virgin rainforest. The 50 hectares were set aside as a preserve that has remained untouched. The remaining 41 hectares were planted with over 70 000 trees utilizing good agro-forestry standards established in conjunction with the farm, scientific consultations and the Costa Rican government.
El Bosque Nuevo has experimented with cut flowers, ornamentals, spices and medicinal herbs, but it is the butterfly production that has proven to be the most lucrative for the farmers.
In late 2007, I received an invitation to visit the El Bosque Nuevo butterfly farm. They would provide food and accommodation for myself and about 20 other butterfly conservatory managers and operators from throughout North America. They wanted us to be confident that they were running a sustainable, profitable and eco-friendly operation.
In March of 2008, my colleague Jacqueline Bertrand and I arrived at the El Bosque Nuevo butterfly farm. The farm had a bunkhouse that could easily accommodate all of us. The bunkhouse is also made available to visiting scientists who wish to study the surrounding forest. It is equipped with a gas refrigerator and stove, and electrical demands are powered by solar cells with a back-up generator for emergencies.
After many consultations with experts from around the world, El Bosque Nuevo began to set up for the production of butterflies. Two greenhouses were erected near the farmhouse. These greenhouses provide a predator-free area for the butterflies to feed, mate and lay their eggs. The host plants for the butterfly larvae (caterpillars) are planted under established trees. The larvae remain there in mesh bags to protect them until they pupate, at which point they are sold or used to restock the greenhouses.
There are no handouts at El Bosque Nuevo. All the money that was initially needed to buy and establish the farm has long been repaid, with extra profits used to pay salaries and increase the farm’s land holdings.
As the person responsible for the purchase of butterflies for the F. Jean MacLeod Butterfly Gallery, I need to be sure that the butterfly pupae we purchase are farmed in an ecologically friendly, sustainable method that provides farmers with a good source of income. El Bosque Nuevo has left me with no doubt.
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