“Hoo” Is That on My Shoulder: Butterfly Jungle Opens at San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Thousands of butterflies floated and fluttered around the Hidden Jungle Aviary at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park this morning as children and adults alike marveled at the beautiful winged insects.  The attendees were treated to a sneak peek of the Safari Park’s annual springtime event, Butterfly Jungle, which opens Saturday, March 14 and runs through April 12.

A giant owl butterfly sits on the shoulder of amused Gabrielle Ortiz, age 12, of Carlsbad, this morning during a preview of Butterfly Jungle at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

A giant owl butterfly sits on the shoulder of amused Gabrielle Ortiz, age 12, of Carlsbad, this morning during a preview of Butterfly Jungle at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

At Butterfly Jungle, the walk-through Hidden Jungle aviary has been transformed into a temporary home for more than 30 species of butterflies. In the aviary, the delicate and colorful creatures surround guests, fluttering lightly through the warm air to find flowers to feed upon. The aviary is also home to lush greenery and exotic birds including finches, colorful turacos and sunbirds, as well as many others.

“Butterfly Jungle heralds the start of spring at the Safari Park,” said Michael Mace, the Safari Park’s curator of birds. “It’s one of the most popular events we hold all year.”

The beautiful butterflies not only enchant guests but make ecological sense. They come to the Safari Park in the pupae stage from Asia, Africa, and Central, South and North America. “If they weren’t harvesting butterflies, many of these farmers would clear cut their land and plant crops or raise cattle,” Mace said. “Instead, when they harvest butterflies, they leave the land in its pristine state.”

The more than 30 species of butterflies highlighted during this year’s Butterfly Jungle include the zebra longwing, orange-barred tiger, Grecian shoemaker, monarch, giant swallowtail and blue morpho. In addition, the butterflies include the threatened birdwing species from Indonesia. The Safari Park was able to offer sanctuary to these rare insects after they were confiscated by U.S. Fish & Wildlife officials from an illegal shipment sent to the United States earlier this month.

Guests to Butterfly Jungle are encouraged to wear bright colors and move slowly to increase the chances of butterflies landing on their clothes or hats. When the insects do land, guests should enjoy the close encounter, but don’t touch, because it could harm the butterfly. Guests also are encouraged to document their Butterfly Jungle experience this year by posting photos to Instagram using #butterflyjungle. The Safari Park will be looking at guest photos and selecting an Instagram grand-prize winner at the end of the four-week event. Butterfly Jungle runs March 14 to April 12, with extended Park hours from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. The ever-popular event is included with admission to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

Bringing species back from the brink of extinction is the goal of San Diego Zoo Global. As a leader in conservation, the work of San Diego Zoo Global includes onsite wildlife conservation efforts (representing both plants and animals) at the San Diego Zoo, the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, and San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, as well as international field programs on six continents. The work of these entities is inspiring children through the San Diego Zoo Kids network, reaching out through the Internet and in children’s hospitals nationwide. The work of San Diego Zoo Global is made possible by the San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy and is supported in part by the Foundation of San Diego Zoo Global.

Photo taken on March 13, 2015 by Tammy Spratt, San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

CONTACT: SAN DIEGO ZOO GLOBAL PUBLIC RELATIONS, 619-685-3291

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