When it comes to their presence in the animal kingdom, lions,
elephants and tropical butterflies represent polar opposites,
but all are classified as equally hazardous when on the run.
Well, that was according to the Ministry for Primary
Industries and the Environmental Protection Agency, Otago
Museum director Dr Ian Griffin told a museum trust board
meeting this week.
He was reporting on discussions over the arrangements for
operating the museum's Tropical Forest butterfly house, which
opened in late 2007 and has attracted thousands of visitors
Dr Griffin, in a report, said the aim of the discussions was
to change the museum's butterfly containment approval from
''a full containment to a partial-release approval''.
''At present no butterflies should escape from our facility,
but if they do the MPI must be notified of a butterfly escape
in the same way a lion or elephant escape would, as the
impact is considered as hazardous,'' he said.
The proposed and inappropriately named ''partial-release''
consent did not change any of the existing ''stringent
criteria'' governing the housing of the museum's butterflies,
but the ''categorising of any escape'' could be altered.
After a recent meeting with officials from the ministry and
the agency in Wellington, he was confident a new permit would
be issued some time next year.
The government organisations had ''assured us that our
ability to operate the Tropical Forest is not under any
Dr Griffin said about 20 butterflies had escaped from the
forest in recent years, a high proportion of them having been
found in nearby parts of the museum.
Museum visitor interaction and programmes director Helen
Horner said staff already went to extreme measures to prevent
butterflies escaping. More than 100,000 butterflies had lived
in the forest since it opened and only a few had escaped,
some leaving, unnoticed in visitors' clothing.
The butterflies could not survive outside the museum, and no
host plants for them grew in Dunedin.