By Yang Wenming, Li Maoying, People’s Daily

Jinping Miao, Yao, and Dai autonomous county in southwest China’s Yunnan province, home to the well-known Honghe Butterfly Valley in Ma’andi township, was recently recognized as the “hometown of butterflies” by the Entomological Society of China.

It fully proved the rich biodiversity resources in Ma’andi township and laid a solid foundation for the township’s development into a scientific research destination and world-class ecological tourist attraction.

In summer, Ma’andi township is a sea of butterflies. Every May and June, hundreds of millions of butterflies emerge from their chrysalises in the butterfly valley and form an astonishing sight of “butterfly explosion.”

There are approximately 20,000 species of butterflies recorded in the world, and China is home to around 2,100 of them. Ma’andi township, where 320 butterfly species have been identified, is one of the regions in the world that see the richest butterfly resources and the most butterfly populations.

Yang Zhenwen, curator of the butterfly valley museum in Jinping Miao, Yao, and Dai autonomous county, told People’s Daily that the sound ecological environment in the valley has created favorable conditions for the propagation of various butterfly species.

According to Yang, Ma’andi township is located in a mountainous area, with a forest coverage rate of,70 percent and an average annual rainfall of 2,500 mm. The warm and humid climate, as well as the vast forests in the township, offer a suitable living environment and ample food resources for caterpillars.

Jungle queen butterflies constitute the majority of the butterfly resources in the township. Other species include Neorina patria, Kallima inachus and Meandrusa sciron.

At 8:00 a.m., Yang changed into camouflage clothes, put on his backpack and carried a large bucket to a butterfly observation site, which is 5 kilometers away.

Yang started working for a local forestry station in 1998. Since then, he has been observing, monitoring and protecting butterflies.

Butterflies, as transmitters of pollen, a food resource for other animals and an indicator species of biodiversity, play an important role in the ecosystem. However, they face challenges posed by both nature and human activities in their life cycle.

Over recent years, Jinping Miao, Yao, and Dai autonomous county launched butterfly protection regulations, established a specialized management agency for the butterfly valley and strengthened public education on ecological protection, so as to ensure the living environment and space for butterflies to the fullest extent.

“Protecting forests, water sources and butterflies has been incorporated into conventions of each village in Ma’andi township and become a part of the daily life of villagers,” said Yang.

Relying on its rich butterfly resources, the autonomous county has been actively engaged in ecotourism and outdoor education activities over recent years. It has blazed a new trail in balancing conservation and development, and better introduced butterflies to the public.

On May 18 this year, the butterfly valley museum in the autonomous county completed its renovation and reopened to the public for free.

“When the museum was just built in 2010, there were only some 20 kinds of butterfly specimens. Today, there are more than 270, which all came from the butterfly valley,” Yang said, adding that the museum will continue to carry out surveys to better demonstrate the biodiversity in the butterfly valley.

The thriving ecotourism sector has led to huge progress in local infrastructure.

“There are many B&B hotels and agritainment facilities in the township today. It takes only five hours to get here from Kunming, capital of Yunnan Province, which is much more convenient than before,” said Wang Yanchun, a butterfly photographer from northeast China’s Liaoning province.

Wang, who plans to stay a week in the autonomous county this time, said the county is more tourist-friendly today than it was in 2011 when he first visited.

Since 2010, the butterfly valley has received a total of 1.9 million tourist visits. An art festival held there on May 20 this year attracted more than 50,000 visitors.

Thanks to the massive arrivals of tourists, the income of local villagers has been significantly improved. Yang told People’s Daily that villagers have built butterfly sightseeing paths, as well as a butterfly base where tourists can release butterflies and learn butterfly knowledge. Besides, villagers have also set up a cooperative engaged in butterfly breeding and the development of relevant cultural products. The butterfly business is leading more and more villagers to prosperity.


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