The delicate ecosystem at the Eva Bene Butterfly Garden in White Rock is at risk due to repeated thefts, according to members of the White Rock and Surrey Naturalists.
The small garden – maintained by the club’s volunteers – has been the target of thieves for the past three years, with a number of vital plants dug up and removed, endangering the butterflies, caterpillars, hummingbirds and rabbits that call the green space in Centennial Park home.
“As soon as we put in the plants and they start to look nice – boom – someone comes and steals them,” Frances de Montreuil said this week. “When they pick them, they are destroying the eggs of the butterflies and their homes.”
The small garden is home to 10 different species of butterflies, including the ones that local school children release each year after observing the metamorphosis at school.
“They won’t last long if their habitat is destroyed,” de Montreuil said.
Last summer, WRSN member Laurence Assoignon wrote to Peace Arch News after discovering nine liatris plants had been stolen. The cost of the plants, which was shouldered by the volunteers, totalled approximately $100.
“Who are these people? What kind of people do this? We can’t figure it out,” Assoignon said. “It’s all over town. They’re taking city plants and the city is not doing anything. They’re just paying for more plants.”
According to White Rock’s manager of operations Paul Slack, the problem of plant theft is a frequent one, however there is not much that the city can do to prevent them.
“We have thefts all over the city, including our plants,” Slack said Tuesday. “It’s really hard to secure areas that aren’t occupied by a lot of people all the time, and depending on the time of day, people can take them in the middle of the night.
“It’s a constant problem. We have people transplant flowers from one area to another – especially on Marine Drive – and we kind of know who they are, but we really can’t do much about it.”
According to White Rock Coun. Grant Meyers, the city is looking into installing signage to ward off thieves. City staff have been directed to speak to the RCMP and inquire about more frequent patrols of the
“The reality is if people really want to steal something, it’s tough to catch them,” Meyer said.
“It’s a shame, I know those people spend their own time and effort working on that area and they obviously love it.”
For Assoignon and de Montreuil, the thefts won’t deter them from working on the garden, but both agree that if left to continue, the thieves could rob the community of a place to learn about a unique ecosystem.
“It’s not fair to take away something that is to be enjoyed,” Assoignon said. “They are taking away beauty from all of us.”
The Eva Bene Butterfly Garden is located in Centennial Park, east of parking lot area for the Centre for Active Living, 1475 Anderson St.