The world largest butterfly, Queen Alexandra’s Birdwing, will be the first to benefit from a new conservation model devised by the Swallowtail and Birdwing Butterfly Trust and set to give a lifeline to its declining population.
The project has attracted the attention of the press worldwide. A detailed announcement regarding support for the project is available here. Here are some examples of the widespread coverage in the press:
Daily Express – scroll down for the piece by John Ingham
Confined to a few thousand square kilometres in the Northern Province of PNG, only a fraction of which would be suitable habitat, and with a density of less than 10 females per square kilometre in areas where its foodplant occurs, this is one of the world’s rarest and most endangered species. Once the conservation strategy is proved successful, it will be adapted to other species, not only in Papua New Guinea, which is the world’s most important country for conserving endangered swallowtails and birdwings, but all around the globe.
Queen Alexandra’s Birdwing is threatened by the encroachments of deforestation and agriculture on its natural habitat. The new project entails a state-of-the-art captive breeding programme – a first for the species – and will involve the local community in the release of the butterfly to enriched and safeguarded habitats; this combination will increase the number of butterflies in the wild while also ensuring the long-term sustainability of the conservation effort.
The Swallowtail and Birdwing Butterfly Trust (SBBT) has worked with sustainable palm oil producer New Britain Palm Oil Ltd and the Sime Darby Foundation, with the blessing of the Provincial Government, to develop and generate facilities and finance for the project, which draws on authoritative research data in two books authored by SBBT trustees, “Queen Alexandra’s Birdwing: a Review and Conservation Proposals” (see Publications) and “Threatened Swallowtail Butterflies of the World: the IUCN Red Data Book”, as well as many other key sources and experts. The project should elevate this species to the insect equivalent of Asia’s tiger and Africa’s elephant.
The Trust is providing technical, scientific and international support to a major three-year project in Papua New Guinea, where the captive breeding and release facility for the species is in preparation. This will strengthen butterfly populations, provide conservation incentives to local landowners, and publicise swallowtail conservation worldwide.
Additional information on Queen Alexandra’s Birdwing is available from the conservation section of this website here, from Wikipedia, and from SPECIES+. An excellent BBC 4 Radio Programme by Mark Stratton gives an atmospheric sense of the butterfly in its natural habitat on the Managalas Plateau and may be enjoyed here.