On the Wings of Butterflies
Lebanon’s First Butterfly Garden and Ecotourist Attraction
This spring kicked off with Lebanon’s first large-scale butterfly garden, and the butterflies are already up and flying about. With an especially rainy winter, the butterfly season this year is expected to be phenomenal and already, billions of butterflies have migrated through Lebanon since February, hailing from tropical Africa to spend their summers in temperate Europe. Lebanon, located within the Mediterranean region, a hotspot of biodiversity, and on the junction between Asia, Africa, and Europe, hosts at least 165 species of colourful butterflies, a large number of them threatened and endemic, being found almost nowhere else on earth.
A joint effort between the Society for the Protection of Nature in Lebanon (SPNL), the BirdLife representative in Lebanon, and the West Bekaa Country Club, a top-notch Lebanese resort, the Butterfly Garden & Pavilion (BG & P) is a green model of sustainable wildlife gardening and a component of a much larger international park with construction plans underway. The garden, an astounding 2,000 square metres in size, features 350 metres of smooth dirt trails, nearly 200 fruit trees, more than 160 species of native host plants, and a large greenhouse that will house a botanical garden, wildflower nursery, and a lepidopterarium where butterflies will be bred and showcased in differing stages of development. A complete green landscape, the garden incorporates numerous environment-friendly elements such as bioswales, mounds, stumperies, living hedges, grass meadows, arbours, and vertical planters that provide plenty of habitats for pollinators and beneficial insects, and encourages efficient space usage, recycling, wise and ecologic water usage, composting, rainwater harvesting, haymaking, beekeeping, permaculture, and aesthetics. Moreover, gardening is organic, sustainable, and responsible, without the use of pernicious agrochemicals such as pesticides, herbicides, and fertilisers.
Butterflies, those beautiful innocent creatures that many people don’t take the time to stop and enjoy, are actually important pollinators and bioindicators. Without butterflies and other pollinators like moths and bees, the wildflowers outdoors we are so familiar with and have seemingly taken for granted, wouldn’t propagate from year to year. Furthermore, butterflies perhaps more than any other group of animals, when monitored and studied, give clues as to the health of the environment and the stressors and pressures that shape the world around us. Educating farmers and the younger generation in Lebanon and around the globe on the importance of butterflies and how to garden or farm organically and responsibly, will help solve many of the current problems associated with butterfly conservation and potentially reverse a number of the threats that butterflies are facing, such as habitat loss and degradation, deforestation, agricultural intensification and the use of agrochemicals, as well as urbanisation and overgrazing. Establishing a garden anywhere, on a balcony, near a residence, school or university, institution, business, or park, along the organic principles of butterfly gardening, such as planting native butterfly plants, when done on a large scale by many people throughout the country, will have tremendous positive results, providing butterflies with the food and resources they need, even were they flying in the middle of a city. This is a major objective of our butterfly garden, having people wherever they might be in Lebanon simulate our success as an early jumpstart to conserve the nation’s butterflies and biodiversity heritage for generations to come.
Tourists, wildlife enthusiasts, and visitors from around the world are welcome, accommodations will be made and food and refreshments served in the nearby resort. The butterfly garden is also situated along the migration flyway where millions of birds fly between Africa and Europe each year, giving visitors a rare sight in this part of the hemisphere. Six nature parks and the eastern slopes of the Shouf Biosphere Reserve are located close by. Take a boat ride in Anjar, paddle a canoe in Kfarzabad, and hike along the many trails around the wetlands. Along with positive environmental activities such as wildlife photography, birdwatching, and butterfly watching, visitors will have the opportunity to participate in bicycling, camping, snowshoeing, mountain skiing, wall climbing, boating, canoeing, archery, horse-riding, crafts, and other fun recreational activities. Visit the herpetarium and indoor pond and observe Lebanon’s reptiles and amphibians in action and then swing by at our nature interpretive center on the Litani River. On your way back, stop at the gift shop, which has all the butterfly books, posters, calendars, clothing, jewelry, toys, and garden accessories you’re looking for to match your international tastes. So join up with the BG & P this summer, and have your kids and friends come along, conserving nature and enjoying the long-lasting benefits of saving our nation’s wildlife…. on the wings of butterflies.
Book your trip today, visit these helpful websites: