The Mariposario Tambopata Butterfly Farm in Puerto Maldonado, open since February 2015, has had an interesting history to date. Initially created in 2000 by Augusto Mulanovich, the butterfly project was forced to close down in 2002 as eco-tourism was still relatively unknown in Puerto Maldonado at that time.
In 2004 the butterfly exhibition was rented to a non-profit NGO and then to an eco-tourism company until, finally, in 2014, Augusto and his wife Valeria Luna decided to reopen the business under the new company name. With 15 years of experience in butterfly breeding and a guide to managing butterflies (mariposas) in Peru under his belt, Augusto felt the time was right to concentrate his efforts full time on the business.
The first thing you notice when you meet Augusto is that he is extremely passionate about butterflies and the butterfly exhibition center.
Augusto says, “Butterflies symbolize the possibility of radical transformation, of complete change. During the metamorphosis, the caterpillar, a feeding larva changes completely to a beautiful flying creature, free to fly.”
And this passion transfers itself to the way Augusto and Valeria manage the butterfly farm. Visiting Tambopata’s Butterfly Farm, guests are able to wander around the the enclosed center with ease and even relax in the snack bar afterwards. The garden is full of local flowers, emblematic species such as the gigantic Brazil nut tree, local bird species as well as medicinal and ornamental plants.
It is also home to hundreds of Amazonian butterflies doing their natural daily activities such as feeding, mating and laying their eggs. At present there are 12 species (including Battus polydamas, Archeoprepona demophoon, Heliconius erato and Catenophele acontius) in the enclosure although Augusto and Valeria are working busily behind the scenes to introduce more.
The butterfly farm is the first of its kind in Peru and has a local staff of butterfly breeders who work in the nursery directly next to the exhibition.
Augusto continues, “To find out how to breed them is an intellectual challenge.” And he would know, having spent many years of his own life (from 1996 to 2002) studying the life cycles of butterflies in great detail.
Augusto adds, “I like to think that we humans have the same opportunity to change and be free, less attached to earthly needs. Besides all this symbolism, Amazonian butterflies are incredibly diverse, they are beautiful, with many shapes and color patterns.”
Does he have any particular favorites? Augusto says that he is unable to choose a favorite species; he likens it to choosing a favorite child – you just can’t do it.
The butterfly farm, along with its regular tours, also provides training to promote butterfly farming to local communities as well as special education scientific tours which include a specialized guide and a visit to the restricted breeding facilities.
The Mariposario Tambopata Butterfly Farm is especially welcoming to families with young children, as the owners understand that a facility like this holds much educational value. In fact it’s a real family affair: Augusto first met his wife, Valeria, when she originally traveled from Buenos Aires, Argentina to work at the butterfly farm and now they have come full circle with the couple managing it with their two children.
“To be able to make a living, to make money for my family and the community in a sustainable way in the fragile Amazon ecosystem is a dream come true for me,” says Augusto.
Written by Michelle Tupy, this article was originally published in May 2015 and has since been updated.