The mission of the Swallowtail and Birdwing Butterfly Trust is to conserve and protect members of the Papilionidae, a worldwide family of more than 550 species that include the largest, most spectacular and most endangered butterflies on the planet.
Our work is generally planned and executed in the context of wider butterfly faunas, their foodplants, and the ecosystems that they inhabit.
We achieve this in four ways: we raise financial resources; convene networks and partnerships; catalyse action, and provide scientific and technical support to conservation projects.
The Trust operates by raising funds, convening partnerships, catalysing action and providing technical and scientific support for conservation projects. We are establishing a network of experts, advisors and supporters to extend this work.
A key activity that we support is the establishment of a captive breeding and release facility for Queen Alexandra’s Birdwing in Papua New Guinea. Working in close partnership with the oil palm industry and local communities, we aim to ensure a sustainable and secure future for this, the largest butterfly in the world. Details are available in a special publication available here.
Major reference sources that guide the Trust’s work include “Threatened Swallowtail Butterflies of the World” and “Swallowtail Butterflies: An Action Plan for Their Conservation”, both published some years ago by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.
These reports found that 61 of more than 550 species of papilionids worldwide are under threat, and many more are insufficiently known and in need of further study.
The Action Plan, prepared by the IUCN Species Survival Commission Lepidoptera Specialist Group and published in 1991, listed 34 potential projects and identified priorities for action. Due to lack of resources, it has been difficult to make concerted progress in the intervening years, but with the creation of the Swallowtail and Birdwing Butterfly Trust, we hope to initiate projects to address the research findings.
The Trust’s first international priority is Queen Alexandra’s Birdwing Butterfly, confined to a small area of northern Papua New Guinea. Our aim is to establish a breeding facility and strengthen the wild populations. We are also working on the Kinabalu Birdwing in Sabah, supporting local work on Australia’s Richmond Birdwing, and putting a team into the field to survey swallowtails in Fiji.
A national priority in the UK is the British Swallowtail, found only in the Norfolk Broads. Salinisation of the Broads due to sea level rise is threatening the few remaining habitats of this subspecies, and plans need to be laid to introduce new populations to safer sites protected from the ingress of salt water.
The Trust was registered as a not-for-profit charity in England on 4 August 2017. It is run by a small group of volunteer Trustees and Advisors and has no staff or premises at the moment.