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Focus on education: The "Neotropical Butterfly Park" in Suriname

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68 Antenna 35 (2)
Figure 1 (above): The flight area of the “Neotropical Butterfly Park”.
Figure 2 (below): One of the greenhouses, where large amounts of food plants for caterpillars are grown.
Antenna 35 (2) 69
Focus on education:
The “Neotropical Butterfly Park”
in Suriname
Torsten M. van der Heyden
Immenweide 83
D-22523 Hamburg
Photos: Amira Mendieta-Eriks
Back in 1996 Amira Mendieta-Eriks,
who originally comes from Ecuador,
and her husband Ewout Eriks, who
studied Tropical Agriculture in the
Netherlands, started their butterfly
business “Neotropical Insects” in
Lelydorp (district Wanica), a village
near Paramaribo, the capital of
Suriname, located in the coastal
northern part of South America.
The main focus of “Neotropical
Insects” was and still is the professional
breeding of tropical butterflies and the
export of pupae – mainly to the United
States. Twenty-two butterfly species of
Suriname are reared at “Neotropical
Information and education have
become another main focus of the
owners of that business since last year,
when the “Neotropical Butterfly Park”
was officially opened on July 16th, 2010
in Lelydorp. All butterflies shown in the
flight area are reared in the breeding
facilities of the sister company
“Neotropical Insects”.
The main purpose of the butterfly
park is to provide an educational
facility for tourists – from Suriname
and abroad and for pupils from the
neighbourhood: Especially children
from the Elementary School of
Lelydorp who visit the “Neotropical
Butterfly Park” to learn more about the
life of these insects.
“Usually they get the lesson about
the butterfly at school but due to the
lack of materials the schools organize
school trips to the Butterfly Park. At
the park the children get a tour around
the farm, where they get to see real life
butterflies, eggs, caterpillars, pupae and
the lifecycle of a butterfly and learn
about the butterfly anatomy”, stated
Amira Mendieta-Eriks.
Besides, the “Neotropical Butterfly
Park” offers a hand-painted 3 metres
high and 40 metres long realistic
panoramic view of typical landscapes of
Suriname, an educational space, an
expo area and an insect museum. “In
the insect museum there are all kinds
of insects that one can find in
Suriname. It is also important for the
children to know which kinds we have
in Suriname”, said Amira Mendieta-
Thinking ahead, Amira Mendieta-
Eriks and her crew at the “Neotropical
Butterfly Park” have another dream:
“At the moment we can’t afford to do
research, maybe in the future…”
Fig. 3: A guide from the park explains the
different kinds of pupae, colour, size and
camouflage to a group of pupils.
Torsten van der Heyden was born in Hamburg in
1959. His special interest in Lepidoptera started
during his studies at the University of Hamburg –
especially during several field trips. He wrote a
thesis on migrational behaviour of different
Lepidoptera species. After finishing his studies he
worked as a biologist in Butterfly Houses in
Germany and on the Canary Islands/Spain in the
late eighties. On the Canary Islands he did research
on several species of Lepidoptera and Heteroptera.
Since then he has published various papers and
articles – especially on butterfly migration, the
biology, ecology and distribution of butterflies.
From 1999 until 2006 he lived and worked in
Costa Rica. Today he lives in Hamburg where he
is working as a teacher of Biology and Geography.
He is a member of various societies and
associations: Royal Entomological Society (FRES),
The Linnean Society of London (FLS), Deutsche
Forschungszentrale für Schmetterlings-
wanderungen, Entomologischer Verein Apollo e.
V., Deutsche Gesellschaft für allgemeine und
angewandte Entomologie e. V., Sociedad Hispano-
Luso-Americana de Lepidopterología, Asociación
española de Entomología, Real Sociedad Española
de Historia Natural, Societas Europaea
Lepidopterologica and Fotografía y Biodiversidad.
... As pointed out before, farming and/or exhibiting tropical butterflies could offer a sustainable opportunity for local (rural) communities in tropical countries to increase and diversify their income (SAMBHU & VAN DER HEYDEN, 2010;VAN DER HEYDEN, 2011). ...
Full-text available
The projects “Banteay Srey Butterfly Centre” in Cambodia (Asia) and “Zanzibar Butterfly Centre” in Tanzania (Africa) are presented as models of sustainable butterfly farming to support local communities.
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