Elegantly flitting around seas of flowers on colourful wings, butterflies are often called the most beautiful insect in the world, and they are symbols of happiness and freedom. As pollinators, they play an important role in the ecosystem, facilitating the reproduction of plants. To increase local biodiversity, Environmental Association, an NGO dedicated to raising environmental awareness, turned two outdoor spaces at Link’s Sau Mau Ping Shopping Centre and Tsz Wan Shan Shopping Centre into butterfly gardens early this year.
“In spite of Hong Kong’s high population and busy traffic, there are as many as 260 butterfly species here, of which 20 of them, including Papilio memnon agenor, Catopsilia Pomona and Papilio polytes, can be found in downtown areas. In fact, as long as the environment is suitable, butterfly habitats are not limited to the countryside,” said Gary Chan, Senior Project Officer of Environmental Association. His team recently brought 250 pots of plants favoured by local species of butterflies for transplantation to Sau Mau Ping Shopping Centre’s outdoor space on the third floor, injecting the space, which is frequently visited by nearby residents, with more colour and vitality.
The plants brought by the team comprise common species such as tangerine and Persicaria chinensis, which are popular and common ingredients in Chinese herbal tea. Gary said, “The plants we brought for transplantation can be categorised into two types: host plants and nectariferous plants. The former serves as a sort of nursery room for butterflies while the latter provides nectar to them.” To offer a variety of “menus” to the butterflies, the team even formed sets of transplantation combinations by pairing plants with different flowering periods and seasons.
Using lessons from successful cases overseas
There have been several successful cases of creating butterfly gardens overseas, some of which have involved public participation. Gary cited the example of Monarch Watch, a non-profit environmental organisation in the United States that operates the Monarch Waystation Program to encourage the public to plant specific species near schools, in gardens and next to roads every fall along monarch butterfly migration routes. The programme aims to provide habitats and resources for monarchs to produce successive generations and sustain their migration.
He also mentioned a similar project in Taiwan, saying, “Since 1996, the Freeway Bureau in Taiwan has been conducting a conservation project around Ching Ming Festival every year to safeguard purple crow butterflies. The project puts up 1,010-metre-long and four-metre-high protective nets to help the butterflies cross the road during their annual migration.”.
In addition to overseeing the creation of the above-mentioned butterfly gardens at the two Link malls, Environmental Association will recruit some 40 ambassadors from the community under Nature LINK, a project sponsored by Link Together Initiatives. The ambassadors will learn how to manage the butterfly gardens and conduct butterfly ecosystem censuses through a series of trainings. They will also provide guided tours to the community in the coming summer. As the start of a journey to build a Hong Kong-wide ecosystem favoured by butterflies in urban areas, Nature LINK aims to increase local biodiversity and sustain Hong Kong’s natural beauty.