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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Bye bye butterfly

Bye bye butterfly

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ABC pupae hanging on bamboo in the emergence cage.

Siem Reap’s Angkor Butterfly Centre (ABC) will oversee the Kingdom’s first ever export of butterflies in January, when it sends 100 pupae to the Vlinderparadijs Papiliorama butterfly centre in Havelte, Netherlands pending approval from the Cambodian department of commerce.

Butterfly farming is already an established business in other Southeast Asian countries like Thailand, Malaysia and the Philippines, from where insects are exported to Europe and America for use in zoos, artificial greenhouses and butterfly gardens.

Twelve local families are involved in the farming of the Centre’s butterflies in the town of Sanday, 25km north of Siem Reap, with a model based on the Amani Project, a butterfly farm that harvests thousands of pupae per week in Tanzania.

“The Amani Project is an inspiration and it’s the template for what we’re doing to alleviate poverty,” says Alistair Mould, project manager. Work for the villagers is part time but pays better than their previous jobs of farming rice and harvesting charcoal and cashew nuts. The top farmer at the centre is now earning about $50 per month.

“And this is just the beginning, we’re very much looking to increase employment,” adds Mould. If the trial export goes well, the Butterfly Centre would like to expand and perhaps send Cambodian butterflies all over the world.

Timing is everything with the shipment of butterflies. The pupae must be new – that is, recently transformed from a caterpillar – which gives the shippers about 2 weeks before they hatch into butterflies. The pupae are sent via air freight special delivery in a cardboard box, with silicon crystals to reduce moisture, and they usually arrive in about three to four days.

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