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Entopia by Penang Butterfly Farm

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One morning in 1966, David Goh, then a 22 year old trainee teacher, saw his landlady's young son trying to catch butterflies with a net.

"I helped and caught one for him. I was mesmerised by its beauty. I never saw a butterfly up close before that. The white, red and yellow wings could have hypnotised me," recalls Goh during an interview.

That short episode set Goh off on a decades of adventure around the world and led the creation of Penang Butterfly Farm in 1986.

“When butterflies are flying, you won’t see their beauty. You must follow them to a flowery bush. Butterflies are frightened of sudden moves and shadows, so move slowly. Then, when they settle on flowers, that’s when they show their intricate beauty to you,” he says with a smile.

It was a natural progression when he eventually brought butterfly eggs home and tried breeding.

Goh eventually succeeded in breeding about 20 species, and the instincts he built from those childhood years spent looking for ways to earn money for his family kicked in.

“I learned to mount bred butterflies in frames. My siblings, mother, and girlfriend, who is now my wife, Vanessa, helped too. I taught at school on weekdays and every weekend, I came back to Penang and cycled to all the souvenir shops with our mounted butterflies.”

He put them in the shops on consignment basis and they became a hit with tourists.

Lord of the butterflies: Clive Farrell has turned his Dorset ...

That was how Goh met Clive Farrell from England, a lawyer, property developer and fellow lepidopterist.

Farrell holidayed in Penang in 1981 and found Goh’s mounted butterflies in a souvenir shop in Batu Ferringhi. By then, Goh’s trade had gone on steadily for about 10 years. The Englishman pestered the shopkeeper for Goh’s address and took a taxi to his home.

“We were busily framing butterflies when he came and he was ecstatic to find us. Farrell told me he was building a tropical butterfly park in London and offered to buy all the live pupae we could produce each week.”

So that was how Goh became the first large-scale butterfly breeder in Malaysia. He expanded and shipped live pupae to lepidopterists around the world.

His business relationship with Farrell grew. The Englishman visited Goh often and on one visit, he wondered why Goh had no plans to start a butterfly park since he had the skill and climate to breed so many.

“Something clicked in me when he suggested that. I was dealing with gift stores for more than a decade and understood how the tourism industry worked in Penang. I saw how a butterfly park would be a good tourist attraction here.”

He wrote a proposal and showed it to the then Penang Chief Minister, the late Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu, who arranged for Penang Water Authority to lease him land in Teluk Bahang to start Penang Butterfly Farm.

“Passion is everything in life. Even if you have no education and money, as long as you love what you are doing and patiently focus on realistic progress, you’ll make it,”  David sums it up.

Joseph took over Penang Butterfly Farm and 10 years later, created Entopia, from the term “Entomological Utopia”. Three times bigger than Goh’s pioneering effort, Entopia is a breathtaking menagerie of about 10,000sq m. ; [This interview is adopted from The Star: Flight of Fancy]


Joseph Goh, explaining the concept behind Entopia.
Photo Credit: Nanda Lakhwani, Penang Monthly

 

For years, people remember Penang Butterfly Farm as a place surrounded by thousands of butterflies, but now, Entopia are bringing out the beauty of natures’ other critters as well. They are the invertebrates, the unseen heroes or the silent majority. They represent 80% of life on earth and yet people know so little about these wonders of nature and the hard work they do to keep the balance of nature.

So, Entopia exist to give them and nature a voice. It aims to bring the best of the insect world and the plant world together for visitors to rediscover the harmony in nature. By sharing knowledge of the natural world – both seen and unseen, Entopia hope to make a difference one act, one volunteer, one community at a time.


Setting up the butterfly feeder station with Pakcik Ishak that is filled with red coloured hibiscus to attract butterflies.

 

Where You’ll Be

Meet Your Local

David Goh & Joseph Goh

The Penang Butterfly Farm was founded in 1986 by David Goh to showcase live butterflies amidst lush greenery. In 2006, David’s son, Joseph Goh, assumed leadership of the Penang Butterfly Farm. Motivated by his belief that the farm should transcend being merely a tourist attraction to become an educational and nature conservation center, Joseph embarked on a journey to realize this vision. A rebranding process began to shift the focus from tourism to education. Named “Entopia,” derived from entomology and utopia, this transformation evolved steadily over a decade. Joseph, who studied architecture in the US, applied his training to design an interactive educational experience starting from the facility’s entrance.

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