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As today is the winter solstice I thought it would be nice to celebrate  world wildlife Wednesday in sunnier warmer climes. So, let’s head to Cambodia where, although this is the cool dry season – their equivalent of winter – temperatures are still averaging in the very pleasant mid-20-degree-Celsius range. And let’s pay a visit to the Banteay Srey Butterfly Centre, about 25 kilometres north of Siem Reap.

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Not only does it have a large netted garden full of tropical flowers with hundreds of butterflies fluttering around, it also has a butterfly breeding programme. Egg-covered leaves are collected from the garden each day and stored in plastic tubs in a small propagation area. Once hatched the caterpillars, ranging in colour from the camouflaging pale greens to the bright red and black stripes of warning, are fed on their favourite plants until its time for their pupation. The butterflies, when they emerge, are equally varied, some vibrant reds and oranges, others plain black and white but intricately patterned, some large, others small and delicate. All are native to Cambodia.

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The friendly centre guides provide a short guided tour, sharing their knowledge of the different species and explaining the life cycle and peculiarities of each species. By training Cambodian people who reside near forested areas to farm butterflies, and employing locals as staff, the butterfly centre benefits local impoverished communities, encourages the preservation of native forests, and helps to conserve the native butterflies – a win, win situation!

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