Butterflies deserve recognition, so the San Diego Zoo Safari Park has created an event in their honor: Butterfly Jungle, an annual springtime celebration. The Safari Park’s Hidden Jungle is home to our butterflies, and inside our rain forest greenhouse, you’ll see thousands of butterflies above and around you as they sip nectar from flowers and feeders. Preparation for this event starts months in advance. We import the butterflies while they’re still pupae from butterfly farms in Central and South America.
Our exhibit is not intended to keep an ongoing population of butterflies, so we don’t include host plants, and the butterflies don’t lay eggs. Most adult butterflies live about two weeks, so our butterflies complete their lives naturally, and there is no second generation.
Notice something different at the Zoo's Elephant Odyssey entrance? A new Pollinator Waystation, an area that will be planted to attract native pollinators like bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds, is being built. Within the waystation, a special area is being created for monarch butterflies to feed and lay their eggs on milkweed, their host plant. As the hungry caterpillars munch through it on their way to becoming adult butterflies, the milkweed plants will be moved to the greenhouse on site to recover and re-leaf.
Supporting butterfly farms in Central and South America is an important conservation step. In order to raise butterflies, the farmers designate areas of rain forest for the butterflies to live in. They can then sell the pupae to exhibits like the San Diego Zoo Safari Park’s annual Butterfly Jungle event, bringing in a sustainable income while also protecting the local habitat.
There are more than 165 butterfly species native to Southern California, and some are threatened or endangered. The Quino checkerspot butterfly and the Laguna Mountains skipper are two endangered species that have dwindled to a few sparse colonies around San Diego County, largely due to agricultural and urban development. You can help change that by planting native Southern California plants in your garden instead of exotic species. Some native plants provide a nectar source for adult butterflies, while others are host plants for butterfly eggs and caterpillars.