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Purbalingga Reptile and Insect Park: Kutasari, Central Java

Thousands of dried beetles and butterflies are arranged neatly in glass cases. There are also various kinds of dried grasshoppers and scorpions that have been placed artistically on shelves. Information about the insects is provided but visitors who want to know more can always ask the guides who will be only too happy to help.

In the same room, which is about as big as a basketball court, there are a number of glass cabinets. Inside them are various kinds of live snakes. Some are as small as pencils or thumbs. Among them are white snakes called Puebloan milk snakes or Albino snakes from Mexico and green mangrove snake (Gonysoma oxyephae).

They are all found in Purbalingga Reptile and Insect Park in Kutasari, Purbalingga, Central Java. Located only five kilometers from the heart of the city, the park has become a unique tourist attraction in the regency.

Visitors, who are mostly students and children, can learn about the animals and have fun at the park. They can even touch the snakes.

“This snake will not bite you. We have covered its mouth with transparent tape. So, if you take its picture, the people who look at the picture will have no clue that the snake’s mouth was taped shut. It cannot bite. The most it can do is stick out its tongue,” said Dewa, a guide.

He held a python that was as big as his arm. It was quite large and looked frightening with its black stripes. Dewa managed to convince the children to touch the cold-blooded reptile.

Another snake, a white one, became the center of attention. Many visitors wanted to pose with the Mexican snake and even put it around their neck. They were confident they would come to no harm because several snake tamers stood guard.

“We guarantee that the snakes we show visitors are clean. We have bathed them beforehand. So they are not smelly,” said Dewa, smiling.

In some other glass cases, there were snakes that looked fierce, ready to bite anyone who got close. They repeatedly tried to peck the onlookers, but hit the glass.

Each glass case has the name of the reptiles inside, along with the place where they came from, the types and whether they are poisonous. In total, there are 133 snakes of 65 types.

Visitors can also take a look at lizards with slippery scales from Australia and Papua. There are also the so-called pencil lizards. These are a kind of snake from Europe and they are as thin as a pencil, but quite long at between 28-54 centimeters. Each pencil snake can have 26 babies.

Another reptile at the park is the white snake called tali wangsa (Boige dandrophyla), which is 2.5 meters long.

In the yard outside, turtles roam around on the grass. Cages containing monitor lizards, big snakes, komodo dragons and crocodiles can also be found in the yard.

After getting to know the reptiles, visitors can explore the park’s insect section. Indonesia has the highest number of endemic butterflies in the world.

In Purbalingga Reptile and Insect Park, each insect has been preserved. There are big and small butterflies as well as various kinds of scorpions and beetles. All are arranged neatly like the butterflies of the Lepidoptera order that are placed in formations like earrings.

Among the beetles are those of the Coleoptera order called rhinoceros beetles and coconut beetles that look strong and fierce. Dried bumblebees are arranged like huge rings and many visitors pose with those insects as the background.

“There are 1,779 beetles and 505 butterflies here. If the information attached on the cases is not sufficient, we are ready to explain about their breeding and other things,” Dewa said.

The professionalism of the guides and the cleanliness of the park and, of course, the park’s collection have attracted many tourists. Recently, visitors was seen queuing to buy the Rp 3,000 (35 US cents) entrance ticket a few minutes before the park opened.

“We really want to make tourists happy. When they enter the room, everything must be clean. The glass must be cleaned so that they can see the animals clearly. The animals, too, must be in good health,” Dewa said.

He said that he and other colleagues once cured a man of his snake phobia. They patiently educated him about reptiles as part of the therapy. “Finally he had the courage to touch the snakes.”

What do visitors say about the park?

“It’s a new experience for me. I didn’t have any idea that Indonesia had so many butterflies. I am really fascinated by their beauty,” said Devi, who came with a group from Tasikmalaya, West Java, by bus.

Similar comments came from tourists from Scotland, Jim and his wife Cheni Kane. In the guest book, he wrote, “I am delighted on behalf of my wife Cheni and my self, to be informed that we are the first European visitor to your wonderful park. It really has been an exhilarating experience, especially enlivened by your vivacious guide Fehi. What a place! What a lovely girl!”
Purbalingga Transportation and Tourism Agency head Sugeng Priyanto said that tourism contributed 30 percent of the regional revenue.

In 2006 the revenue from the tourism sector reached Rp 5.2 billion, and the target for this year is Rp 6.9 billion.

Suherdjoko