Tim Wong’s passion is aquatic biology, but during his free time, he has taken up a truly impressive task that has had very real results. In the past four years, Wong has worked to repopulate a rare species of butterfly that was threatened to go extinct in San Francisco. The California Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly population was dwindling to dangerous levels. When the butterfly is still a caterpillar, it only eats a specific plant: the California pipevine plant, from which the butterfly gets its name. The problem is that those specific plants are becoming increasingly rare and hard to find, which in turn has decimated the butterfly population.
He decided to do something about it. He found the plant at the San Francisco Botanical Gardens and was allowed to take a few clippings of the plant to grow at home.
He worked to create a screened area outdoors where he could look after the plant and analyze the needs of the species, hopefully to bring them back from the edge of disappearing forever.
The next step was to gather as many caterpillars as he could find. From nearby areas, he collected a group of 20 to nurse the tiny insects and help them grow and reproduce.Years later, he is able to bring dozens of caterpillars to the San Francisco Botanical Garden’s “California Native” exhibit each week! For the first time in decades, the butterfly has been successfully repopulated in the city.
His incredible work has earned him the title of “Butterfly Whisperer” among his fans.
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