Good News honors Lee Tai-ming, director of the National Freeway Bureau, for practicing what he preaches: “Human beings need to coexist with the other species even if they are tiny butterflies.” Beginning yesterday and through April 6, one lane of a busy section of Taiwan’s Freeway No. 3 is closed in the morning to create a safe passage for a huge seasonal migration of milkweed butterflies. Nets and ultraviolet lights have also been installed between the interchanges of Jhushan and Douliou, along the Lin section in southwestern Taiwan, to guide the butterflies to fly safely back to their summer home in the north, where they lay eggs and die. The protective nets along the freeway, each measuring 200 meters in length and 2.5 meters in height, are designed to prompt butterflies to fly higher to avoid crashing into cars. The ultraviolet lights under the elevated freeway lure the light-sensitive insects to fly safely underneath. The milkweed butterflies are indigenous to Taiwan and have distinct white dots on purple and brown wings. Each winter, beginning in November, the young butterflies fly south, with approximately a million of them wintering in the “Purple Butterfly Valley” of Maolin, near Kaohsiung, which along with the Monarch butterfly’s winter home in Mexico is one of only two mass wintering sites known in the world, There are more than 400 species of butterflies in Taiwan, and 56 of them are endemic to the island. In the 1960-70s, the island was called the “Kingdom of Butterflies” because of the massive export of butterfly products. Some 10 million butterflies were caught every year. Even though the export of butterfly products has long stopped, the butterfly population has yet to pick up. Many rare and precious species are facing extinction. The homecoming butterflies usually pass over the Linnei freeway section, with a peak in numbers seen between 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. everyday from late March through earlier April. In a single observation on April 3, 2005, researchers recorded some 11,500 Euploea butterflies per minute flying over the freeway section, equivalent to over one million in a single day. Many perished when they were dragged into strong turbulence caused by cars racing along the freeway. About one third of the purple-spotted butterflies risk their lives at the end of winter by flying north along the 300km route, which cuts across the elevated road. Thousands of them are killed on the freeway each spring. This year, for the first time, humans on the island are doing some good things for their co-inhabitants. Copyright 2007 The China Post?
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