Butteflies’ well-being at exhibition will not be compromised: Science Centre

REGINA MARIE LEE Today Online 15 Jun 16;

SINGAPORE — In response to concerns from the public about the treatment of butterflies in its “Butterflies Up-Close” exhibition, the Science Centre Singapore (SCS) said on Wednesday (June 15) it is looking into “more precautionary measures” to ensure that the well-being of butterflies is not compromised.

Some butterfly lovers who visited the permanent exhibition, which opened on April 30, had raised concerns about disturbed pupae, butterflies which they said were deformed and butterfly wings being sold.

Currently, the pupae, which are meant for display only, are hung on a 1.8m-tall rack out of the reach of children, but within the enclosure, said an SCS spokesperson. The centre is considering moving all pupae to the back room, she added.

Butterfly enthusiast Foo Jit Leang, 67, shared pictures of butterflies with crumpled wings and what appeared to be dead butterflies on the ground on the “Butterflies of Singapore” Facebook group.

He was concerned that visitors were allowed to touch the pupae on display, and said this caused adult butterflies to emerge deformed.

In response to TODAY’s queries, SCS said visitors are not allowed to touch pupae, and can only touch butterflies with supervision.

Two to three guides, who are trained on how the insects should be handled, are “always on-ground to supervise the public’s interactions with the butterflies”, and signs on dos and don’ts are placed at the enclosure entrance.

When asked about the butterflies with crumpled wings, SCS said that newly emerged butterflies have wings that are “folded or crinkled”, which must dry before the butterfly can fly.

However, Mr Foo, who has a butterfly garden, disputed this. “A butterfly takes about five to 10 minutes to form their wings, but these (in the picture he posted) are definitely deformed,” he said.

Butterfly lovers on the Facebook group were also concerned that butterfly wings are being sold at the centre to make bookmarks and frames, and were worried that butterflies were being killed for their wings.

Mr Foo said the butterfly wings being sold were too pristine to be from old ones which had died, as butterfly wings fade over time.

SCS said the butterflies used for its bookmark and frame-making activities were “only used after their lifecycle has ended”.

“We believe this is a wonderful way to memorialise their beauty, and allows visitors to witness for themselves the wonders of these insects,” said the spokesperson.

Mr Foo said using butterfly wings for art and craft “sends the wrong message to students”, comparing it to using elephant tusks to make jewellery. “I fear that kids will get the idea to catch butterflies ... you cannot use nature products for art and craft,” he added.

An SCS spokesperson said: “We understand the concerns that have been raised, and we’d like to reassure the public that the well-being of the butterflies is our priority.”

The spokesperson added that the SCS was considering additional measures, but these have not been confirmed.

Butterfly lovers such as Mr Foo were worried about the impact of this exhibition on children. “They’re not passing a correct message as far as butterfly conservation is concerned,” he said.

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