How to Save a Butterfly


A species of endangered butterfly is on the road to recovery from near extinction. Learn about the unique program that came to its rescue.

(soft music) - [Narrator] In a small patch of prairie in the Willamette Valley in Oregon, an endangered butterfly is on the road to recovery from near extinction.

The Taylor's Checkerspot spot.

Along with efforts to save their habitat, an unusual program has come to their rescue.

- We've been working on this site for over 10 years so that we can restore it to a native condition where the butterfly can thrive.

(soft music) The program actually started at the Oregon Zoo in 2004 and in 2011 we were really pleased to bring on a second rearing institution at the Mission Creek Corrections Center for Women.

(soft music) the women setup and organized the whole lab, they adopted the protocols that the Oregon Zoo had developed, and they've passed those skills on one to the next person as new inmates come in and other are released, they're able to hand that work off, one to the next.

- It's kind of rewarding, especially when you find eggs, it's like, 'Yay!' - I know, yay.

- The second batch of wilds will kick in, we only had nine from our captives and 168.

- Rearing this butterfly requires a lot of focused and skilled attention.

One of the things that fit really well was the consistency that we had with the people in the prison, and they have really adopted this program and made it their own.

And it's one of the most immaculate lab facilities that I've ever seen.

- We're encouraging them.

- Oh they're breeding. - We're attempting to breed.

- Attempting to breed, attempting population.

- This particular butterfly, there's a lot of very detailed behaviors that they exhibit.

And so it requires people to really pay attention to their needs.

These women have really taken to this program and, like I say, they've really made it their own.

And it, in turn, has really fed them and allowed them to thrive as individuals.

- Handling the butterflies, being in this environment provides huge healing for us.

We come here, we're very broken.

That's the one common thing that all of us have is our brokenness.

- It's really easy when you come to prison to think that you're just another of society's rejects.

And I'm learning that, uh, what I do matters.

- I think that it's just given me the ability to nurture again.

To be able to feel like a mom for a minute and be away from the chaos.

I think that's the most amazing part of it 'cause I'm committed, I have a relationship with these bugs.

- Coming out here and handling something so delicate, so precious, so fragile and actually being able to give back to society, give back to the environment and at the same time healing ourselves, that's just amazing that we get that opportunity.

This has become, now, my life work.

- To come in and be able to just focus on something that you can deal with and actually help every single day.

You're invested into these bugs.

We are invested in the butterflies, for real.

It's one of those things where every day you're like, 'I'm going to work, I don't know what you guys 'are doing, but I'm going to work.'

- [Narrator] As the women work to rescue these butterflies, the butterflies, without working at all, somehow return the favor.