|Male Rajah Brooke Birdwing (Trogonptera brookiana albescens)|
At the Penang Butterfly Farm, I was very lucky to view and photograph this magnificient beauty. The Rajah Brooke Birdwing (Trogonoptera brookiana albescens) was discovered in 1855 by Alfred R. Wallace. He named it after Sir James Brooke (1803-1868) who was the first white Rajah of Sarawak. Sarawak is a state in Malaysia located in the island of Borneo.
The Rajah Brooke birdwing is the national butterfly of Malaysia.
This gorgeous red-head has been nicknamed, the 'Prince/Princess' of butterflies. Their wing span is about 15-17 cm or 5-7 inches. They are found mainly in the tropical rainforests of the Thai-Malay Peninsular, Borneo, the Natuna archipelago and also Sumatra.
Male butterflies have velvety black wings characterised by 7 tooth shaped electric green markings which make them look very elegant. The one in the picture above is perched on a yellow mussaenda flava plant.
|Female Rajah Brooke Birdwing (Trogonoptera brookiana albescens)|
The wings of the female birdwings are browner and there are prominent white flashes at the tips of the forewings and base of the hindwings.
|Underside of male Rajah Brooke Birdwing (Trogonoptera brookiana albescens)|
Sightings of these butterflies are rare and we can only find them at butterfly farms and certain protected areas. The Rajah Brooke Birdwing is listed as an endangered species under Appendix II of CITES (Convention on International Trade and Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora). It is also protected under our country's Protection of Wild Life Act 1972.
It was reported here in January 2010 that the removal of a historical pipeline in Gopeng for scrap metal have destroyed the largest site for Rajah Brooke birdwings in Ulu Geroh. Ulu Geroh is located in Ulu Kinta Forest Reserve and it is a major tourist attraction for viewing these butterflies in their natural habitat. The group of butterflies that congregate here may number as many as 100! In the past, the harvesting of this butterfly for sale as preserved specimens, gifts and souvenirs have led to declining populations. Our government is educating the local villagers around the area to act as stewards in looking after the butterflies and make a living from eco-tourism instead of catching them for sale.
I think that with the wonderful invention of the digital camera, many of us can take photos/videos for rememberance, thereby waiving the need for catching them alive and harming them in the process.
These butterflies feed on nectar from flowers of certain plants such as the bauhinia, mussaenda, ixora and lantana. Newly emerged males need to get potassium and sodium minerals to activate adult behaviour, hence the male butterflies will gather in a large group to sip nutrients from wet soil or mud puddles.
The above video, sourced from YouTube, shows a congregatory of male Rajah Brooke birdwings exhibiting their unique 'mud-puddling' behaviour . For more information, you can also visit the following sites:
- Learn About Butterflies Site by Adrian Hoskins, here
- The Star Online report, here.
- The Malaysian Nature Society article, here.
|Specimen picture of male and female Rajah Brook Birdwing from Wikipedia|
Question: What's the difference between the first 3 pictures and this one?
Answer: The last picture are dead specimens. If the butterfly becomes extinct, our future generations will not get to see the Rajah soaring to new heights but rather with their wings pinned up!
"We never know the worth of water till the well is dry." ~Thomas Fuller, Gnomologia, 1732.
"Because we don't think about future generations, they will never forget us." ~Henrik Tikkanen
And to all the ladies out there,
HAPPY 100th INTERNATIONAL WOMEN'S DAY!
This is my entry for My World Tuesday, the link is here.
My grateful thanks to Mr Andy Loke, staff of Penang Butterfly Farm for explaining to me the differences between the pictures of a live, resting birdwing and that of a dead specimen.