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West Malaysia                                        Next >>
May 2009
a private small group trip organised and led by Adrian Hoskins

hill forest, Bukit Tapah  Adrian Hoskins

On day 4 we headed up to the cool forests of the Cameron Highlands. Near Ringlet we found 2 very attractive Riodinids - the pretty reddish Punchinello Zemeros flegyas, and the delightful tailed species Abisara neophron. In clearings and quarries we found several Long-tailed Blues Lampides boeticus, and the lovely silvery blue Caerulean Jamides celeno. Prettiest of all however was the Purple Sapphire Heliophorus epicles - a relative of the Coppers, marked on the upper wings with purple and orange, and with the underside bright yellow with red margins.

As we reached the higher altitudes of Tanah Rata temperatures dropped and butterflies became much harder to find. At Robinson Falls however we saw some interesting Satyrines including the white-barred Lethe verma and several of the attractive striped ringlets Ragadia makuta.

lowland rainforest, Gopeng  Adrian Hoskins

We spent the next 3 days based at Gopeng, taking daily excursions into the surrounding hills. Most of the lower slopes were covered in oil palm plantations where species diversity was expectedly very low. Nevertheless the proximity to the rainforest meant that there were still many beautiful butterflies to be found in the sunnier glades including the Yellow Glassy Tiger Danaus aspasia, the Oriental Short-tailed Blue Everes lacturnus, and the stunning striped Silverline Spindasis lohita.

The higher slopes have so far escaped the ravages of the oil palm industry and retain natural forest cover, dotted with Orang Asli settlements. We visited a small waterfall where a trio of Tree Nymphs Idea lynceus entertained us. These huge butterflies, like white handkerchiefs marked with black polka dots, fluttered gently above our heads but never settled close enough to permit photography. When seen in flight they are extraordinarily graceful, and to watch them floating tantatisingly around us was one of the highlights of our time at Gopeng.

lowland rainforest, Gopeng  Adrian Hoskins

On our last day in the area we visited a Rafflesia conservation area at Ulu Gerok. Butterflies were diverse and abundant but we were saddened to discover that hundreds were being slaughtered daily by the local Orang Asli women and children who had laid dozens of crude traps along the forest trails. They used a sweet sticky solution to attract the butterflies to the ground, and used nets to catch all the Swallowtails and other brightly coloured species that came within reach. Any butterfly which landed on the ground however became trapped by the sticky bait which literally glued their wings together. The area around each trap was consequently littered with the damaged corpses of dozens of species.

Miraculously the Orang Asli had failed to discover what was without doubt one of the most amazing butterfly spectacles I have ever seen - a massive group of over 100 pristine Rajah Brooke's Birdwings Trogonoptera brookiana settled on a small patch of ground on a quiet forest track. No photograph, video clip or verbal description can begin to do justice to the incredible beauty of these creatures, and to see such a huge aggregation was a sight guaranteed to blow the mind of the most experienced butterfly enthusiast. Try to imagine 100 butterflies, each measuring almost 8 inches across, a quivering mass of shimmering iridescent green wings, packed together on a patch of ground the size of a small dining table. Then try to imagine the thrill of being so close that you could reach down and touch them. After taking a few photographs you edge gently away but the whole group erupts into flight, and you are surrounded by a swirling mass of glittering green wings. You freeze on the spot, hoping not to scare them away, and they respond by gliding closely around you. Then one by one they resettle on the ground until they encircle you. At first they nervously quiver and flutter, but after a couple of minutes they all relax and spread their glorious wings. You are mesmerised, and the huge privilege of such an experience is something you never forget.

Rajah Brooke's Birdwing, Trogonoptera brookiana  Adrian Hoskins

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