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Reminiscing the Days of Dancing with Insects in Borneo丨Story

By YAN DENG|Mar 18,2023

Chongqing - Zhang Weiwei, a well-known philatelist, entomologist, science writer, and ecological photographer, shared his new book Amazing Insects of Borneo with readers recently in Chongqing. He recounted his legendary story of being obsessed with chasing all kinds of exotic insects in Borneo in Southeast Asia's Malay Archipelago, inspiring listeners to embark on a mysterious journey to Borneo.

Zhang Weiwei (left) shared his new book Amazing Insects of Borneo with readers on March 12 at the Nan'an District in Chongqing. (Photo/Zhao Xin)

In the field of entomology, Zhang Weiwei has made remarkable achievements. He has published many books, such as A Photographic Guide to Insects of China, and has won awards such as the Chinese Government Award for Publishing, the highest award in China's publishing field. 

"Stamps and insects were my two most important hobbies when I was young. By combining the two, I became obsessed with collecting insect-themed stamps. My friends called me 'famous philatelist,' which I think is a better title than 'entomologist,'" Zhang said. He considers himself "someone who collects insects." His collection includes insect stamps, coins, books, specimens, amber fossils, and hundreds of thousands of insect images.

As a senior International Federation of Philately (FIP) stamp exhibition judge, he has been invited to participate in more than 20 World and Asian stamp exhibitions. His interest in finding insects in Borneo is also related to his experience as an international stamp exhibition judge.

Located in the center of the world's largest archipelago, the Malay Archipelago, Borneo is home to more than 60,000 species of flora and fauna and is extremely rich in biodiversity. In 2012, Zhang Weiwei first heard of the "Borneo Jungle Girl," the first dedicated entomology camp in Sabah and a world-renowned insect research center. 

In early 2015, he visited the camp for the first time, and since then, he has made countless visits to Borneo. Starting that year, Zhang began exploring and taking a large number of ecological photos of various insect species in different parts of Borneo.

 "Some of these species are brilliant, some seem shy, some are imposing, and some are unique. In my eyes, Borneo is the epitome of global biodiversity. From early 2015 to early 2020, I spent nearly 500 days and nights in the primitive rainforests of Borneo. I want to introduce readers to a different Borneo and the unique world of insects on the island."

In his new book, Zhang selected 100 original representative photos of Borneo's insects and narrated 100 stories about rainforest insects. The stories feature various characters, including the "most elegant butterfly" discovered by 19th-century British naturalist Wallace, the "incredible killer" Toxodera integrifolia, etc.

Zhang Weiwei's new book Amazing Insects of Borneo(Photo/Zhao Xin)

The inner pages of Amazing Insects of Borneo(Photo/The event organizer)

The journey of insect exploration was not smooth all the way. "The temperature differences between day and night are intense. The highest temperature during the day exceeds 40 degrees Celsius, and we still need to cover ourselves with a blanket at night! The camp has no network signal, and the road conditions up and down the mountain are also very poor. However, when we think that we are completely immersed in the world of insects, these are not a big deal," said Zhang. Although there are many insects in the rainforest, it is not easy to see them. For example, some large and brightly colored insects only move during the day and like to fly in the bright sun. To find them, you must endure the high temperature and patiently wait.

In the view of Li Yuansheng, a poet and traveler who is a good friend of Zhang Weiwei, the book will excite insect enthusiasts who want to go to Borneo to witness these strange species with their own eyes and even indulge in a natural trip.

Zhang revealed at the sharing session that the next Borneo trip has already been arranged. "November to January of every year is the rainy season in Borneo, and it rains heavily every day, making it impossible to find insects. Therefore, we all go to the mountain during the dry season from February to October. We are expected to depart in April this year."

(Zhang Yulin, as an intern, also contributed to the report.)


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