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Birdwing Butterflies are the largest in the world.
Photo: Chris Johnson

April 13, 2001
  Real Audio

Log Transcript

We have learned first hand that Papua New Guinea is a haven for insects, enough to try the endurance of the hardiest individual. After only a short period of time in Madang, the Odyssey has provided a home for a wasp, whose delicate vase shaped nest, is currently under construction. She has attached it to the mizzen boom crutch on the aft deck. Hoards of veracious ants have scaled our docklines and marched on board in their thousands, determined to reside permanently on board the Odyssey. They have spread over every conceivable interior and exterior surface of the boat.

Papua New Guinea is a paradise for many thousands of insect species, having more than its far share of things that bite and sting. In addition to the poisonous wasps and the sometimes-bothersome ants, this region is endowed with many species of butterfly, most notably the exquisite birdwing variety. Many are unique, not only to this region, but to very specific habitats. This includes the world's largest and rarest butterfly, the Queen Alexander birdwing.

An unidentified butterfly on Garove Island.
Photo: Chris Johnson

It is actually possible to buy butterflies at butterfly ranches here in PNG. The philosophy being, collectors from around the world are supplied with specimens of these astounding creatures, while villagers can earn money by collecting and selling them. The ranchers ensure the procreation of the species, by targeting insects that have already laid their eggs. Villagers are thereby more closely connected with their natural environment and are less likely to be tempted to cut down the precious forests on their land for quick and easy money.

This is Genevieve Johnson speaking to you from Madang in Papua New Guinea.

Log by Genevieve Johnson

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