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New Year gift: Moscow Zoo to show off 365 tropical butterflies in early January

People will get a unique chance to admire exotic dwellers of Southeast Asian and Latin American forests during the entire festive season at the Birds and Butterflies pavilion housed in the Moscow Zoo’s new territory.

The Moscow Zoo has prepared for early January an unusual gift for the New Year festive season: 365 rare exotic butterflies from the Philippines and Costa Rica are now in the Birds and Butterflies pavilion housed in the Moscow Zoo’s new territory.

“We have purchased 365 butterfly pupae to match the number of days in 2019, and they will start hatching soon. Our entomologists have created the most comfortable conditions for them. They maintain optimal temperatures and humidity at the pavilion, so that the pupae can turn into beautiful butterflies. We hope that our visitors will be pleasantly surprised to see all these butterflies and make them feel happy during the New Year festive season. Nothing is more magnificent than to watch tropical butterflies flying around when winter is in full swing, when snowstorms engulf local streets, and when subzero temperatures bite your cheeks hard,” Moscow Zoo Director General Svetlana Akulova noted.

The exhibition will include eight different species of butterflies such as the great yellow Mormon (Papilio lowi), the emerald swallowtail (Papilio palinurus), the common Mormon (Papilio polytes), the scarlet Mormon (Papilio rumanzovia) and the clipper (Parthenos sylvia) from the Philippines, as well as owl butterflies and those of the genus Morpho from Costa Rica, she proudly added.

Swallowtail butterflies in the family Papilionidae boast tell-tale wing cross-sections: Unlike other members of the order Lepidóptera, their wings’ inner side sections do not touch the abdomen. Most of these butterflies’ rear wings end with long drop-shaped “tails.” Swallowtail butterflies also owe their unusual but widespread name to this distinguishing feature. The great yellow Mormon (Papilio lowi) is black, boasting sleek white patterns on its rear wings, and the wing patterns have purple or red spots.

The emerald swallowtail (Papilio palinurus) has a similar wing structure, but their colour is different. The outer sections of these butterflies’ wings are vivid emerald green, with even brighter, almost turquoise, hues in the middle. The common Mormons (Papilio polytes) feature more subdued colours varying from dark brown, greyish-beige to almost black with bright orange accents on the rear wings’ outer edges. The scarlet Mormon (Papilio rumanzovia) is famous for its tell-tale black-and-red colour. The clipper (Parthenos sylvia) can be easily recognised by its speckled grey-and-black wings with orange hues and white spots.

The owl butterflies, the genus Caligo, look more imposing than all others and boast a wingspan of 15 centimetres and more. The wings’ upper side is dark with a deep blue-and-violet tinge. Their lower side has an intricate pattern, and a small eye resembling that of an owl can be seen on the rear wings. The morpho butterflies comprising many species of Neotropical butterfly under the genus Morpho may seem tiny at first glance. But, after spreading their wings, these butterflies amaze everyone with their bright-blue glittering hue and thin black-and-white patterns.

“Visitors get a unique opportunity to watch the pupae turn into butterflies and spread their wings before taking off for the first time. The average lifespan of tropical butterflies is only two or three weeks. Therefore it will be possible to take a look at the insects only until mid-January,” Ms Akulova added.

The Moscow Zoo replenishes its animal and bird collection all the time, accommodating over 1,000 species and 8,000 animals today. In 2018, the Zoo received two Amur tigers, as well as Madagascar fossae (Cryptoprocta ferox), a secretary bird (Sagittarius serpentarius), trumpeters (Psophiidae family) and black (crested) curassows (Crax alector). The leopard cat (Prionailurus bengalensis) has also staged a comeback for the first time in 30 years.

During the festive season, the Moscow Zoo will be open every day from 9 am until 7 pm. On 31 December, it will admit everyone from 9 am until 3 pm and there will be a 40-percent discount on tickets. The Zoo’s detailed holiday programme is posted on the website.

The Journey to Christmas festival will provide entire families with plenty of fun and games during the upcoming festive season. The 78 festival venues are open from 11 am until 10 pm on weekdays and from 10 am until 10 pm at the weekend in central Moscow and in other parks and administrative areas, offering street performances, concerts, workshops, tasty foods and gifts. The festival will be on until 13 January.

New Year gift: Moscow Zoo to show off 365 tropical butterflies in early January