Butterflies signal spring at Safari Park

Butterflies signal spring at Safari Park
The Paper Kite butterfly from Southeast Asia lands on one of the many unique blooms in the terrarium. Photo by Ellen Wright

ESCONDIDO— The butterflies at the Butterfly Jungle in the San Diego Safari Park throw caution to the wind and disobey the no touching rule, landing on visitors’ heads, shoulders and anywhere else they please.

Visitors are often treated to a quick landing of the more than 30 species of butterflies.

The month-long exhibit has been open more than 20 years and Bird Curator Michael Mace said it’s held every spring to celebrate the coming of the new season.

Visitors are checked before and after coming into the giant terrarium, to ensure no butterflies make an escape on an unwitting guest.

Butterfly pupas, which are similar to caterpillar cocoons, are shipped in from Central and South America in a delicate casing, like cotton.

The butterflies live out their life span in the enclosure.
According to Mase, the exhibit is strategically planned so about the same number of butterflies are always fluttering about.

“We’re releasing butterflies everyday. We keep the experience at the same level throughout the entire period of time,” Mace said.

The Butterfly Jungle promotes conservation and preservation in the Americas.

Instead of clearing the forest to raise farm animals, families can farm butterflies.

“It allows the forest to remain in tact by purchasing and helping a family in a range country,” said Mace.

The enclosure is also a butterfly sanctuary.

More than 100 butterflies in the enclosure were confiscated at the Los Angeles International Airport after a traveler from the Philippines failed to get the proper permits.

“Not only do we take care of a collection or do research but we’re also a sanctuary so here is a great example of being a sanctuary to animals that would normally be challenged to (survive),” Mace said.

The exhibit opened Saturday and runs through April 12.

It is free with admission to the Safari Park.

The Tailed Jay butterfly hails from Sri Lanka through Southeast Asia and Australia. Photo by Ellen Wright

The Tailed Jay butterfly hails from Sri Lanka through Southeast Asia and Australia. Photo by Ellen Wright

The terrarium is kept humid to keep the butterflies comfortable. It’s filled with different flowers for the butterflies to land on and feeding stations throughout where visitors can get an up-close view of the butterflies. Photo by Ellen Wright

The terrarium is kept humid to keep the butterflies comfortable. It’s filled with different flowers for the butterflies to land on and feeding stations throughout where visitors can get an up-close view of the butterflies. Photo by Ellen Wright

More than 30 species of butterflies can be found throughout the Butterfly Jungle. New butterflies are released daily in the enclosure to keep the amount at a steady level.

More than 30 species of butterflies can be found throughout the Butterfly Jungle. New butterflies are released daily in the enclosure to keep the amount at a steady level.

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