Beautiful Australian butterfly saved by community

A community-based project in Australia is successfully saving the Richmond Birdwing butterfly, according to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO).


The community-based project, the brainchild of an honorary research fellow with CSIRO Entomology, started as a small scale experiment in his own garden, but after 10 years has become a flagship butterfly conservation project.

“We used to see the butterflies in Brisbane, but they had nearly vanished by the early 1980’s apart from the occasional drifter,” says Dr Don Sands, the project founder.

The butterfly had declined due to rainforest habitat destruction, and the loss of its caterpillar’s food plant, the Richmond Birdwing vine, as well as a non-native vine which was poisoning the caterpillars, says Sands.

In 1991, scientists, community members, park rangers and school children embarked on an ambitious project to help bring the butterfly back by planting Richmond Birdwing vines in school grounds, gardens and bushland reserves. By September this year, 32,000 vines had been sold by a local plant nursery.

“The community was wonderfully enthusiastic and keen to be involved,” said Sands. “But without the science to lead them, the project would not have been so successful. Likewise, the scientists would never have been able to achieve these results without the communitites and schools taking part.”

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