Singaporeans' awareness of their natural habitat has been enhanced by the choice of the Common Rose as the national butterfly in a contest organised by the Nature Society (Singapore). Six butterflies had been shortlisted for voting, by experts in the field, based on their beauty, size, life status - that is, whether they are thriving or endangered - uniqueness to Singapore, and their biological or aesthetic reflection of national traits or symbols such as resilience, adaptability and the Singapore flag. The Painted Jezebel, Common Birdwing, Common Tiger, Common Tree Nymph and the Knight lost out to the Common Rose, which won by garnering 37 per cent of the 7,603 votes cast.
In any competitive exercise, what is as important as the outcome is the process. Competition was healthy because all the contending butterflies have special attributes, which voters understood and appreciated for their contribution to natural diversity. The Common Rose stood out because of its colours. It has a bright red body, and its black wings are streaked daringly with contrasting patterns of red and white. The red and white symbolise the colours of the national flag; the red dots recall the five stars; and the white streaks invoke the crescent moon.
The ultimate winner in the Nature Society's commendable exercise is Singapore itself. That thousands participated in celebrating the role of butterflies in the ecological and imaginative life of the nation shows that Singaporeans are moving ahead in the quest to balance economic development and an enduring love of the anchoring blessings of the habitat. The balance will never be struck once and for all. Instead, it will evolve as the fruits of development are channelled back into preserving the environment as the common property of all: humans, flora and fauna. Meanwhile, the Common Rose will continue to fly, carrying the flag on its beating wings.