Saturday, 19 June 2010

NSS Kids’ Enchanted Butterfly Exploration at Changi T3

By Gloria Seow, Education Group Chairperson
Photos by Lena Chow
Only 20 lucky NSS members get to enjoy the Changi T3 Butterfly Gardens each time.

A humming butterfly garden in the middle of Changi Airport’s swankiest terminal is a classic out-of-the-box tribute to our tropical natural heritage. As the world’s first butterfly garden in an airport, transit passengers stumbling upon this little oasis would be delighted to find hundreds of painted wings whizzing about in seeming bliss. And so were we, on our visit on 9 May 2010.
A little girl captures on her camera a Clipper feeding on sugared water pumped up via red flowers.
Twenty NSS kids and their parents, accompanied by butterfly experts Simon Chan and Steven Chong, toured the garden for its superb butterflies and landscaping. After stringent security checks involving multiple finger and thumb print scans that held up the group for almost an hour, we were finally in paradise. Kids ran around ooh-ing and aah-ing at one colourful butterfly after another, snapping photos, and even jostling to pick up the delicate beauties for closer examination. There were supposed to be 50 species of 1,000 free-flying butterflies native to Singapore and Malaysia present. However, according to Simon, the number and variety of butterflies here have inexplicably taken a dip since the garden’s opening on 28 August 2008.
A Clipper butterfly at the pineapple juice bar.

These farm-bred butterflies feed off the nectar from planted flowers, with their diet supplemented by cut fruits, and even sugared water artfully displayed as a butterfly-shaped flower tray. When we got hot and sweaty in the open-air garden, butterflies landed on us to feed on our profuse perspiration! One of the little girls in our group invented a clever way to entice butterflies onto her open palms – she dipped her fingers in sugared water as bait! The kids were particularly attracted to the huge and friendly Clipper and the prettily-patterned Tree Nymph.
Attractive Clippers from Malaysia.

In its lifecycle, a butterfly transforms in four stages. It starts off as an egg, becoming a caterpillar, then a pupa and finally emerging as an adult butterfly. We got to see rows and rows of pupae hanging from a transparent cupboard. These pupae take about a week to transform into their final adult form. We were lucky to witness several adults ‘eclosing’ or emerging from their pupae case. These newly-birthed butterflies had soft and folded wings that gradually expanded with body fluids pumped into their wing veins. When dried and all plumped up, butterflies test their wings by opening and closing them several times before undertaking their maiden flight.

Lemon Emigrants ‘eclosing’ or emerging from their pupae cases.

The second storey of the garden held an astonishing variety of pitcher plants. Kids were concerned that the hungry mouths of these carnivorous plants would ‘eat’ the butterflies they so loved. However, an educational signboard explained that butterflies typically steer clear of pitchers, which accounted for their near absence on this floor.
Kids enjoyed close interactions with these painted winged beauties.

All in all, we enjoyed ourselves thoroughly, leaving the garden enriched and enchanted by the sheer magic of so many butterfly fairies living within a tiny space.