Our metamorphosis begins with these butterflies

 
 
 

Don’t underestimate the effect of a butterfly. These delicate insects hold the power to change landscapes. Without them, entire ecosystems could collapse. Americo Bonkewitzz is determined to stop this from happening. The scientist not only studies butterflies, but has conceived an unusual structure to ensure their survival. Inside a protected dome, the winged creatures soar above people’s heads, land on fingertips and flutter past faces. Children can’t help but look on in wonder. Here, a transformation to save our earth has begun.

“We created the Eshowe Butterfly Dome for people to interact with the world like they have never seen it before,” Bonkewitzz says. The dome is one of four conservation buildings in KwaZulu-Natal, forming part of the Butterfly Route. The structure, filled with indigenous plants and butterfly species, is a place of learning run by members of the community. Visitors can discover the complexities of butterflies and their significance to the environment. They act as pollinators, protect plants from pests, and are prey to other creatures in the food chain. “By understanding this insect, people can realise how fragile our ecosystem is,” Bonkewitzz says. The decrease in butterflies as a result of habitat loss and climate change has a massive ripple effect. It’s up to us to protect them.

“The biological diversity in South Africa is very unique and we are losing that,” Bonkewitzz says. “We need people to put it back again.” His primary goal is to instil this understanding in children. In the next few decades, they are the ones who will play a critical role in keeping biodiversity alive. “This isn’t just a breeding ground for butterflies, but for our minds too,” Bonkewitzz says. Just like a caterpillar ready for its transformation, we are capable of effecting change that will last for generations to come.