CALARCA, Colombia, Oct. 15 (Xinhua) -- Nestled in the mountains of west-central Colombia's Quindio department is the country's third most visited botanical garden, which has established itself as an environmental education center.
Covering 15 hectares of forest in the city of Calarca, Quindio Botanical Garden has the country's most renowned butterfly house, the site's main attraction, housing 40 species of endemic butterflies.
Founded in 1979 and opened to the public in 2000, the garden draws visitors -- mostly children and adolescents -- to see its more than 1,500 butterflies in a habitat of nectariferous flowers, with specialized guides explaining their importance to the ecosystem.
"The garden is an experience to have with your family, your children, as a couple or by yourself. It is something you should take the time to get to know, even if it is just once," John Nunez, a visitor, told Xinhua during a butterfly house tour.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the garden attracted more than 60,000 visitors annually with its collection of palm trees, including 210 of the 255 species in Colombia, as well as ferns and heliconia.
Elevated bridges, a labyrinth and trails for observing birds and other species make this a place for entertainment, while its variety of wildlife make it an important resource for species conservation, particularly for Colombia's flora.
"Visitors are very impressed that there is a place so close to the city with this amount of information; they are surprised and grateful," said Dora Charry, one of the garden's environmental guides.
"We have to generate awareness in people, so they understand that we really need to change our perspective of nature, and that conservation can be done from any point," Charry added. "Obviously, a place like this that helps with education and awareness is very useful."
The garden represents decades of work by its founder, Alberto Gomez Mejia, who also presides over Colombia's National Network of Botanical Gardens, which seeks to expand botany and conservation knowledge throughout the country.
The garden is unique in Colombia as it supports the conservation work being done around the world, like the 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP15), held in Kunming, Yunnan in southwest China.
COP15 "will help to promote the shaping of these types of spaces dedicated to environmental education and awareness, in addition to promoting equality and equity through conservation," Gomez said. Enditem