Butt Watcher's Workshop - A New Perspective Recapped

Date: 5 March 2010 (Friday)
Venue: Civil Service College
Participants: Nature guides and prospective nature guides
Facilitators: Ria Tan, November Tan and Chen Jinwen
Guest Speaker: Khew Sin Khoon

It was a fully-clothed group which turned up for a practical session on butt-watching on Friday. Leading the pack was Khew Sin Khoon, and expert and well-practiced watcher (and photographer) in this area. Needless to say, we all improved our knowledge in one way or another.

Butt Watchers paying attention

After November kicked butt with her usual introduction, we jumped straight into the pool of butts. Pictures, of course. Khew had an amazing collection of snapshots, and throughout his presentation, we were ‘oohing’ and ‘ahing’ away at the beautiful shots.

We soon realized how limited our knowledge of butts was when we were given a surprise pop quiz. Out of the twelve pictures, we wrongly identified many of the butterflies as moths, or vice versa. And we weren’t even looking for them in the wild, where identification had to be done in a mere matter of seconds!

Luckily we received much help from Khew. How to tell butterflies from moths? Clue: look at the antenna. Other than that, we gleaned many cool facts about butterflies in general. They have strange feeding preferences (pee and sweat are one of their favourite juices); they are importance as environmental indicators; they have many talents for survival in the wild.

The wealth of information covered!

My greatest takeaway however, was the knowledge that what humans deem as weeds may be the only food source (or host plant) for the caterpillar. The dreaded mile-a-minute which I had helped removed during a weeding session was actually the host plant for one butterfly species! This really woke me up to the fragile interdependence between species in nature and how our ignorance can impact it.

On the not-so-serious end, we had Butterflies Charades after Khew’s inspiring talk. As many groups found out, acting out butterfly names or butterfly behaviour was not quite as easy as it seemed. My group had the unfortunate task of acting out the Common Mormon Butterfly. We scrapped by with random hand gestures and frantic pointing, and a wild guess from a participant (who read our acting as something else altogether).

Applause though goes to the group which marvelously performed the act of mimicry.

"Me, me, cry!"

Finally, we had to ‘sell’ our beloved butts to visitors which were well, not our favourite kinds. Though this mission sounded daunting, we all managed to pull it off with plenty of brainstorming as groups. There were jokes of flying palms, human-sized butterflies and rather creative methods used to convey our message of butterflies, the ‘ugly’ caterpillars and their importance to the larger realm of life.

He's not surrendering; he's a butterfly

A participant summed it up best when he echoed the words of Khew, “(if you) enjoy the butterflies, love the caterpillars.” Indeed.

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