IQUITOS, Peru – Spreading the beauty of butterflies and protecting them through education is the mission to which the Austrian Gudrun Sperrer has dedicated almost 20 years from her Pilpintuwasi Center – “Home of the Butterflies” – a place deep in the Amazon jungle that truly lives up to its name.
Pilpintuwasi is located in the settlement of Padre Cocha near the city of Iquitos and the confluence of the Nanay and Amazon Rivers, a place dedicated heart and soul to protecting the environment and breeding and studying lepidoptera, many of whose species are endangered, chiefly due to “the ignorance” of humans.
Sperrer, a butterfly breeder and self-taught biologist, came to Peru 35 years ago and has spent most of that time raising butterflies, which all began with the idea of starting a business (selling pupae to museums, zoos and collectors around the world) and which led to a passion for protecting and learning all she could about the colorful creatures.
“Butterflies around the world are endangered due to the clear-cutting of forests and above all because of people’s ignorance about the life cycles of the plants they live on. People don’t know that each butterfly species lays its eggs on a specific type of plant. When we eliminate a plant, we also eliminate the possibility of an entire species reproducing,” Sperrer told EFE.
As an example, she cited the case of her native Austria, where the eradication of nettles almost led to the extinction of the peacock butterfly, because it wasn’t known that nettles were the life support of the species.
Sperrer estimates that Peru has between 5,000 and 6,000 different butterfly species, of the more than 25,000 that exist on the planet, and of whose life support plants not even 1 percent is known.
In her crusade to know and reproduce butterflies, the breeder built the center, which also serves as a place to leave animals that are either abused or the victims of illicit trafficking, and where she has identified the life-support plants of dozens of butterfly species.
There, protected by a net from possible predators and parasites, butterflies of all kinds exhibit their amazing colors – beautiful hues of blue, gold, black, red – and reproduce on their species-friendly plants, from which Sperrer and her colleagues gather the eggs to incubate them and develop the caterpillars for the next generation.