Sentonaris holds a Blue Morpho butterfly in the
Butterfly Jungle exhibit at the San Diego Zoo Safari
Park on Friday, March 9, 2018 in Escondido, Calif.
thousands of swooping, iridescent butterflies, are set to
charm visitors at Butterfly Jungle, running until April 15
at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.
butterflies have been maturing in their pupae in an
incubation room at the Safari Park. When they emerge,
keepers carefully transport them in wooden boxes to the
specially prepared Hidden Jungle Aviary.
pupae have been arriving at the Safari Park in recent
weeks. Some come from a broker in Colorado. Many others
are shipped directly from Costa Rica. Villagers there are
paid to carefully collect from the approximately 30
species that will be on display in the aviary.
establishing that the butterflies have a monetary value,
the Zoo helps preserve the rain forests where the
butterflies grow, said Don Sterner, an animal care manager
who oversees Butterfly Jungle.
actually propagate the butterflies, collect the pupae, and
release the butterflies back into the wild," he said.
"They then ship the pupae to zoos and various
never see butterflies in such great numbers," Sterner
said. "We also have birds here as well. You’ll also
have an ambiance of tropical birds with the
the prelude to what the public will see at the exhibit.
suggests coming in the morning to beat the crowds. Sunny
days are best, to view the butterflies in the most light.
no, the birds in the aviary won’t eat the butterflies
— only compatible species will remain in the aviary
during Butterfly Jungle.
no extra cost apart from Safari Park admission. But for
those willing to pay more and willing to get up early, the
Safari Park offers a behind-the-scenes tour, starting at
8:15 a.m. and lasting for two hours.
tour begins with the butterflies, migrates to fruit bats
and from there to see exotic birds and their trainers.
Cost begins at $89 per person. For more information, go to
a San Diego Union-Tribune reporter visited at the
beginning of March, some butterflies had already matured
and been released into the aviary.
showed the reporter around the aviary and the incubator
room, kept in sauna-like conditions for the comfort of the
butterflies, if not necessarily humans.
the pupae arrive, keepers inspect them to make sure no
unwanted species are included, and that there are no
also must be meticulously tailored to the developing
recent visit, the incubator’s temperature was maintained
at 79.3 degrees and 79 percent humidity — quite a
contrast to the wintry morning temperature outside.
they’re judged fit, the pupae are fixed to vertical
racks and placed into the incubators. Keepers can peer
through glass panes to inspect the pupae without
disturbing their development.
swallowtail and heliconid butterflies are some of roughly
30 species that will be on display. These include a
perennial favorite, the blue morpho. When resting with
wings folded up, it’s a rather drab brown that easily
blends in with the surroundings. With wings spread, the
electric blue coloration flashes into view.
butterflies, another large species, will also be
turn upside down and flash the underside of their wings;
it looks like an owl is staring at you," Sterner
said. "It’s a startling effect."
are much more than a pair of pretty wings. They are
excellent pollinators, which plants depend on, and
more than providing beauty, butterflies play an important
Central America, in California, and elsewhere, butterflies
are important for the survival of plants, Sterner said.
are great pollinators," he said. "We need
pollinators to survive. And there’s been a decline in
the amount of pollinators, bees, butterflies, a lot of
insects that provide pollination."
help the butterflies that help us, people can grow plant
species around their homes and gardens the butterflies
depend on, Sterner said. Information about these plants
will be available at Butterfly Jungle.
March 10 — April 15
9 am — 6 p.m.
times to go: Mornings and sunny days preferred.
to dress: To attract butterflies, wear brightly colored