Insectariums can play a strong role in conservation education. They can also play a role in the conservation of biodiversity in nature by providing economic opportunities for local populations that are alternatives to destructive resource extraction such as logging, mining, or conversion of forest land to agricultural enterprises such as cocoa, coffee, or oil palm plantations. It is difficult if not impossible to conserve natural resources where alternative economic opportunities are limited or absent. In response, as general awareness and concern for loss of tropical forest ecosystems and biodiversity emerged, the government of Papua New Guinea deemed insects a national resource and candidate for economic development. This policy resulted in the establishment of the Insect Farming and Trading Agency (IFTA) in 1978, to create income-producing opportunities for villages through nondestructive extraction of forest resources while at the same time creating incentive for preserving forest habitat. In 1983 a report published by an advisory committee of the National Research Council, in cooperation with the IFTA, promoted the idea of butterfly ranching and farming to supply research scientists, butterfly collectors, and other commercial uses. The report estimated that the current trade was between $10 and 20 million annually. Gram for gram, butterflies became more valuable than cattle. In 1981 it was estimated that an industrious butterfly farmer could earn from $100 to $3000 a year versus the mean per capita of $50. The IFTA sells $400,000 worth of stock annually and provides income for 1500 villagers in Papua New Guinea.
The worldwide explosion of public walk-through butterfly houses in the 1980s and 1990s created a new market for butterfly ranching and farming projects. Nairobi University scientists, working with the East African Natural History Society and the National Museums of Kenya, began the Kipepeo Project, (kipepeo is Swahili for butterfly) in 1993 to protect the Arabuko-Sokoke Forest in Kenya. A United Nations grant was awarded to develop sustainable utilization of butterfly biodiversity for the benefit of surrounding rural communities. In addition, a butterfly house was established as an ecotourism attraction to diversify the coastal tourism industry and to promote conservation of the Arabuko-Sokoke Forest. Several butterfly ranching projects have been created in Costa Rica to promote the conservation of remaining remnants of forest habitat in that country. These projects rely on the purchase of pupae by live butterfly exhibits. Organizations such as the U.S. Agency for International Development, The Nature Conservancy, Conservation International, and the World Wildlife Fund have now participated in the development of similar projects in Central America, and in Irian Jaya and Sulawesi in Indonesia.
Papiliorama-Nocturama Tropical Gardens in Neuchátel, Switzerland, an exhibit and nonprofit organization that opened in 1988, invests income into a sister foundation, the
International Tropical Conservation Foundation, which runs the 8.9 ha Shipstern Nature Reserve in Belize. Shipstern also has its own public butterfly house on the reserve grounds.
Approaches to conservation have shifted in the past decade from focusing on single-species protection to ecosystem preservation. In 1987, for example, the Center for Ecosystem Survival, a nonprofit consortium serving zoos, aquariums, museums, and botanical gardens, was created in San Francisco to raise funds for biodiversity conservation through habitat protection, conserving invertebrates and plants as well as vertebrates and other forms of life. In 2001, a total of 112 informal science institutions participated in this program and raised over $2 million for habitat purchase and protection, fueled in part by increased public awareness of the magnitude and importance of insect biodiversity.
See Also the Following Articles
Conservation • Museums and Display Collections • Photography • Rearing of Insects • Teaching Resources
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