The purple milkweed butterfly winters on the south end of Taiwan and flies over 600 meters of open roadways to reach its breeding ground in the north. Unfortunately, many of the 11,500 butterflies that attempt the journey each hour do not reach their breeding grounds because turbulence generated by fast-moving cars drags them into traffic or under the wheels of oncoming vehicles. As a result, Taiwan will close one lane of a major highway to protect more than a million of these butterflies, which cross the road on their seasonal migration.
Ecologists are using the lane closure, protective nets and ultra-violet lighting in the hopes that these efforts will increase the milkweed butterfly’s chances of reaching their destination. The protective nets are designed to force the butterflies to fly higher, reducing the chances of them getting caught in the traffic. Ultra-violet lighting will be used below an elevated section of road to encourage the butterflies to fly underneath.
“Human beings need to coexist with the other species, even if they are tiny butterflies,” Lee Thay-ming, of the National Freeway Bureau, told the AFP news agency.
These measures cost the equivalent of about $30,000. Chump change. Yet, as Grrlscientist asks, “Would Americans ever dream of doing such a thing?”