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Butterfly Trading

Illegal trading and killing of animals like elephants for ivory, rhinos for horn, cobras for skin, and several antelopes for their hides and meat have been happening for centuries. Wildlife trade has contributed to the extinction of many rare species of animals.

Traders and poachers are a continuing menace to wildlife authorities. They do not spare even insects like butterflies. They operate cleverly and make millions of money.

Fifteen years ago, one by name Richard Skalski used to frequently visit the Biology Department of Stanford University. His knowledge in raising of butterflies was greatly appreciated by the faculty members. He was given special permission to participate in field trips and group discussions. Skalskia became so familiar, that the University extended facilities to encourage his interest.

Skalski used to collect eggs and caterpillars of some rare species of butterflies. He would raise them in exclusive gardens in his farmhouse. He took special care when the caterpillars became chrysalises. He would hang hundreds of chrysalises over his bed and watch them undergo development. At the precise moment, just before completion of metamorphosis, Skalski would transfer them to a dark room.

Inside the darkroom, the butterfly would be carefully removed from the chrysalis case and transferred immediately to a refrigerator. The butterfly would remain inactive but alive.

Skalski had raised a variety of species and possessed one of the finest collections of butterflies in the world. Even the National Museum of Natural History, the American Museum of Natural History or California Academy of Sciences did not have certain specimens of butterflies.

As Skalski was going about his” hobby”, one University Official, however, did not appreciate. He alerted the Fish and Wildlife authorities of the area. Posing as butterfly enthusiasts and willing to buy rare specimens, the officials discovered that Slaski was infact an illegal trader. He was operating with his friends, Thomas Kral and Mare Grinnel. They were found to be involved in illegally capturing thousands of butterflies from US National Parks and Wildlife refuges and selling them.

The officials recovered from Skalski 2200 specimens of rare butterflies with an estimated value of $ 300,000. Fourteen species happened to be protected by law.

In 1995 the three were arrested and punished.