Tentative opening scheduled for October, say organisers.
A NEW tourist attraction, the Angkor Butterfly Centre, is being built on the outskirts of Siem Reap and will double as a poverty alleviation project, with rural families trained to breed butterflies and harvest pupae, organisers say.
The privately funded centre is an offshoot of a similar venture in Tanzania, the Zanzibar Butterfly Centre, which opened to the public in January 2008. The Angkor centre, in Sanday village, about 25 kilometres from Siem Reap, is run by some former staff from Zanzibar and is headed by director Ben Hayes, a founder of the Zanzibar centre.
Also from Zanzibar is Project Manager Alistair Mould, and representing Cambodian interests is Tek-Sakana Savuth, executive director of local NGO Angkor Participatory Development Organisation. Involved in an advisory capacity is WWF stalwart Mike Baltzer, but Ben Hayes emphasised that there is no funding from the conservation group.
Work on the project began in Siem Reap over a year ago, with ground-breaking and site development commencing last November. The launch date is loosely scheduled for early October.
Mould arrived in Cambodia three weeks ago, after handing over the Zanzibar project to Tanzanian management. He told the Post: "The Zanzibar and Cambodian models are very similar, but in Siem Reap we are hoping to involve more villagers on a much larger scale.
"In Zanzibar, we are working with just one village, but here we want to work with more, especially in areas that as yet don't have any income from tourism."
Director Hayes said: "Initially, we'll work with 10 families spread out over a number of areas including Phnom Kulen and here in this village. But we hope to expand that. Plus, we'll do farming of pupae within the exhibition and on site."
Like Zanzibar, revenue for the Siem Reap centre will initially be generated by tourism admissions, but in time income will also come from the sale of butterflies and butterfly pupae to collectors, zoos and other centres mainly in Europe and the United States.
Hayes said there were several reasons why Siem Reap was chosen for the new centre, including the tourism potential, communities to work with and the richness of butterfly fauna
"The butterfly fauna of Cambodia is not as well-studied as that of Thailand and Vietnam, but it's very high in diversity; and for the project, we will probably deal with 20 to 30 species. Those species are local to the Siem Reap region."