High-tech conservation

Published: Tuesday 15 February 1994

Virtual reality for the butter The country's first high-tech butterfly conservatory is being established at Burdwan in West Bengal, as part of an environmental education programme by the National Council of Science Museums (NSCM). The Burdwan Butterfly Centre will have a 3,000 sq m main display glasshouse, without any internal support structures. According to Saroj Ghose, director-general of NSCM, electronic devices will "create the delicate climatic ranges, which facilitate the limited life span (3 to 21 days) of butterflies".

The enclosed area will recreate a rain forest with trees, shrubs and other vegetation, including 300 varieties of host plants. An artificial stream will flow through the middle of the glasshouse.

Computers will maintain the temperature of the glasshouse between 25o and 30oC, and humidity between 60 and 80 per cent. Electronically controlled devices will regulate the amount of light inside.

The climate control system of the Burdwan Butterfly Centre will be fashioned on a similar conservatory at the Royal Melbourne Zoological Gardens in Australia.

According to Ghose, the "unique thing about the project will be that visitors can walk through the recreated rain forest." And, because the glasshouse plants may not produce nectar through the year to allow the germination of butterfly eggs, facilities to produce this nectar from sucrose, fructose and glucose under sterile conditions are being built near the glasshouse.

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