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By Georgia Grimond, Senior Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz), situated near Avenida Brasil in Zona Norte (North Zone), last week opened its doors to a newly revived butterfly house. As part of the 2015 National Science and Technology Week, whose theme this year is “Light, Science, and Life”, the house has been re-opened having been closed for close to three years.

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The Moorish castle at Fiocruz, one of the leading centers of health research in South America, photo by Wikimedia Creative Commons License.

In a space of 84 square meters, visitors can wander among four different types of butterfly from the Americas: the owl butterfly (Caligo eurilochus brasiliensis), the orange-tipped angled-sulphur (Anteos menippe), the julia butterfly (Dryas iulia) and the great southern white (Ascia monuste). The environment mimics their natural surroundings and information explains details about the butterflies’ life-cycle and survival skills, as well as what they eat and the importance of their coloring.

“The butterfly house was shut down for a while because we were exhibitors only. Now we’ve been registered as scientific raisers and we can offer the public the experience of a number of species of living the butterflies,” explains Ricardo Lourenço, who heads the project. Now visitors can observe all parts of a butterfly’s life, from caterpillar to adulthood.

“We have built a garden here at Fiocruz, respecting the power of each species. The julia butterfly, for example, feeds on wild passion fruit. So we had to import seed, prepare the soil and produce a sufficient quantity to feed it and to feed the larvae of the species. A bit like the great southern white, which only eats cabbage, but here are many pesticides so we had to buy and cultivate organic seeds in good quantity,” says Lourenço.

Fiocruz is one of the leading health and technology research centers in Latin America. Inaugurated on May 25th, 1900, in order to tackle public-health issues, like yellow fever and smallpox, in Brazil. Today its remit includes research development, hospital care, the production of vaccines, drugs, reagents and diagnostic kits, as well as education, training, communication and social work.

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Visitors to the newly re-opened butterfly house will have a chance to learn about their eating habits, photo by Tânia Rêgo/Agência Brasil.

The institution is named after Oswaldo Cruz, a physician, bacteriologist and epidemiologist from São Paulo state, who was instrumental in introducing and pushing through the use of vaccinations against the spread of yellow fever in the early 1900s despite resistance from the public and government.

The foundation’s home in Rio is a eight hundred thousand square meter campus in Manguinhos which has not only the Museum of Life, which houses the butterfly insectarium, but an interactive science park, extensive library and a Moorish style castle. There is also a recently restored tea house which was built as a place for researchers to meet in 1905 and a small train runs through the grounds, transporting visitors between the attractions.

The butterfly house is open from Tuesday to Thursday, from 9AM to 4:30 PM, and on Fridays between 10AM and 4PM. School groups need to book up to one month in advance. Individuals and families however do not need to schedule a visit. Entrance is free.

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