A Day at Kuranda’s Australian Butterfly Sanctuary

A Day at Kuranda’s Australian Butterfly Sanctuary

By James Dixon | 3rd February 2015

You’ve decided to book a visit with Cairns Tours to the gorgeous mountain village of Kuranda. You are excited about the Skyrail Cableway and Scenic Railway journey you will take to get there and back and you’ve heard about all of the delightful little boutique stores, cafes, and the amazing Kuranda Village markets. You likely plan to spend you day taking in the scenery of the surrounding natural environment, visiting some crocodiles and cuddling some koalas, but do you also want to experience something truly unique? Kuranda’s amazing Australian Butterfly Sanctuary will fulfil that role!

Kuranda-butterfly Sanctuary

Kuranda’s own little butterfly exhibit is situated right in the heart of town, close to the daily markets. The Australian Butterfly Sanctuary houses over 1500 stunning hand-reared tropical butterflies at any one time and is the largest exhibit and flight aviary in Australia. With examples including the locally famous Kuranda Butterfly, the striking Cairns Birdwing Butterfly and the coveted Ulysses Butterfly, the Sanctuary has been showing visitors the stunning array of local ‘Lepidoptera’ since 1987, with over one million people being captivated since then.

Besides experiencing the thrill of being surrounded by hundreds of colourful butterflies in the aviary itself, a 30-minute guided tour through Kuranda’s most unique attraction also consists of a visit to the laboratory to learn about the lifecycle and behavioural habits of this amazing insect. You will also see the caterpillar-breeding nursery, which breeds around 30,000 caterpillars – including the gargantuan Hercules Moth Caterpillar – and releases about 24,000 pupae into the aviary every year. Here’ you’ll also see what a newly emerged butterfly or moth looks like before they are released into the aviary.

The aviary’s landscaping alone is something to behold, with a huge amount of effort going into maintaining this thriving ecosystem. The rainforest’s canopy, under-storey, waterfalls and streams are designed to be as close to the butterflies’ natural environment as possible, to ensure that their lives reach full cycle and their breeding habits are not impacted. The female butterflies lay eggs naturally in the aviary and staff collect them for protection during incubation and through their pupillary stage, before releasing them back into the aviary as fully formed butterflies. By doing this, the Sanctuary are able to maintain a maturity success rate of no less than 80% (in the wild, only 2% of caterpillars make it to the butterfly stage).

The modern use of herbicides and insecticides has had an extremely detrimental impact upon Australia’s (and the world’s) butterfly population, so Kuranda’s Butterfly Sanctuary is a much-needed refuge for conserving these amazing species. The bonus is that these butterflies have become rather domesticated over the years, so they will probably land on you during your visit!

If you’d like to boost the butterfly population in your own garden, research your local butterfly types and plant plenty of the species of plant that their caterpillar usually eats. These will likely be hardy Australian natives, so you’ll have a water-efficient garden to boot! Don’t use pesticides or herbicides on your garden and limit fertiliser (butterflies have an astonishing sense of smell and too much fertiliser can turn them away). Don’t forget – if caterpillars all but demolish your butterfly plants, that’s a good thing! It means you’ll have a new generation of gorgeous butterflies visiting, breeding and laying in your garden from kilometres away, year after year.

In the meantime, enjoy your Cairns Tours trip to Kuranda and the Butterfly Sanctuary. Oh, and don’t forget your camera!