Emblematic of the gentility of Taiwan in many ways, the butterfly, with its tender wings, migratory pattern and species-specific peculiarities, has the enchanting capability of soothing onlookers and surprise researchers. As it so happens, local lords fittingly call Taiwan a "Monarchy of Butterflies" with its approximately 399 species, less than 50 of which are indigenous to the islands of Taiwan.
The Butterfly Conservation Society of Taiwan was established about nine years ago from a group of volunteers seeking a sustainable means to build upon their interest in appreciation and preservation of the flying insect. Drawing support from the Council of Agriculture Forestry Bureau, private concerns, volunteers and paid members, the Society has grown to four paid employees, including its director, Secretary-General Scott Lin.
In an interview arranged on behalf of the Forestry Bureau, Lin explained how his organization works and detailed its contributions to Taiwan.
The society holds numerous events, some open to the public and others "for members only," such as nature hikes that include workbook activities to help people better understand the butterflies, cocoons and caterpillars they observe.
"The Society holds events for primary and junior high schools. The children really have a good time watching the butterflies and develop a curiosity for the amazing transformation that takes place in their relatively short lifespan," Lin said.
Queried about how long that lifespan is, Lin said that it is usually a month, but he shared that one butterfly tracked in Taiwan had survived the whole winter, living for about a half year. Is he for real, did someone pull a "switchero" on the painted tags or is this some kind of "non-urban" legend? You decide!
Enthusiastically, he then related the tale about how the staff had "taken in" one caterpillar that was said to remain dormant in winter, clinging to the branch of a specific tree upon which it feeds. The worm just clung motionless on the branch they had brought in and, sure enough, it had not even nibbled one bite of the leaves for weeks on end. Lin relates such tales for a reason.
"We aim to inform the public about the necessity of preserving butterflies, by instilling in them an understanding of how they operate and what human activity could cause them harm.
For example, we show them a field of grass that may appear innocuous enough, until they discover that under the surface are dozens of cocoons. People inadvertently bring an end to dormant life by cutting down the field," Lin said.
He then interjected with another interesting tidbit of information:
"As for the myth that touching a butterfly's wings is fatal. That's just not true!"
He explained that about half of the funding for the society is derived from a yearly Council of Agriculture subsidy. The rest is derived from the 350 fees from active members, volunteer work, Taipei City Government Environmental Protection Bureau, private sponsors and foundations and sale of the society's publications and calendar.
The goals of the organization can be best described by looking at its mandate, outlined in the image to the right.
The Butterfly Conservation Society of Taiwan engages in education, conservation, education and promotion activities. Aside from holding activities for the appreciation, examination and gaining an understanding of butterflies, the society carries out area-specific surveys and environmental observation activities.
Of the courses it provides are, "Learning seeds for the preservation of butterfly ecology," "A primer on the broad-tailed swallowtail butterfly," "Training for volunteers on the Butterfly Path on Jiannan Road," "The purple butterfly: training for volunteers," and others, such as ecological preservation lectures and informational discussions.