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Melbourne Zoo

The Zoo's all a flutter as an icon turns 33

17 December 2018

Melbourne Zoo’s iconic Butterfly House today celebrates its 33rd anniversary, and its visionary display continues to awe visitors the way it did when its doors first opened.

This summer there are some exciting new additions to the colourful collection of more than 500 butterflies, across 15 different tropical species.

Invertebrate Precinct Coordinator, Kate Pearce said the team had been able to simulate some over-wintering conditions for species that would normally find Melbourne’s winter too cold, such as the magnificent Monarch Butterfly, which has was assisted in successful breeding activity this year.

“This is the first time we have tried artificially over-wintering Monarch Butterfly adults in the environmental chamber,” said Ms Pearce. 

“We tried to simulate the overwintering they experience in Mexico, keeping the chamber at 10-13°C and 80% humidity, for eight weeks. We then removed them when the food plant was ready and the butterflies bred within a few days.”

Sadly, Monarch Butterflies have faced a rapid decline in population due to climate change and habitat loss.

Other recent additions to the Butterfly House include Chequereds, Caper Whites, Red-bodied Swallowtails and Blue Tigers.

The invertebrates have also been able to join in the Christmas spirit, with a Christmas tree added to the Butterfly House.

And, while visitors continue to be warmed and inspired the moment they walk through the doors into a temperate 27°C, a vast number of improvements have helped the space become more energy efficient and sustainable.

These include the addition of automated entry and exit doors, and the addition of energy efficient double-glazing to the roof to ensure the temperature remains steady, no matter the conditions outside.

Invertebrate Life Sciences Manager Jon Birkett said the exhibit played an essential role by its ability to connect visitors and the broader community with invertebrates and tropical butterflies.

“Invertebrates are the largest animal bio-mass on our planet and must not be ignored, but rather, put into context with other wildlife they share their environments with,” said Mr Birkett.