A UNIQUE ORGANISATION
The Swallowtail and Birdwing Butterfly Trust is the only organisation in the world tackling the threats to butterflies on a global basis.
Of course, there are many local and national organisations doing great work, but far too many countries still have little capacity to conserve their butterflies on the ground. SBBT provides assistance wherever there are local enthusiasts willing to help protect much-loved butterflies. We know that many are also flagships and champions for entire ecosystems and communities that need help now.
WHY SWALLOWTAILS AND BIRDWINGS?
Scientific analysis of threats to endangered species is the first step in any effective conservation programme. In 1985, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) published “Threatened Swallowtail Butterflies of the World”, the first comprehensive assessment of every species in the Papilionidae1,2 . Dozens of species were found to be at risk worldwide, and many more insufficiently known. The full volume, with references, is available from the IUCN Library System.
The Lepidoptera Specialist Group of the IUCN Species Survival Commission followed up by publishing “Swallowtail Butterflies: an Action Plan for Their Conservation” in 19913, the first such plan for any group of insects. They identified 34 priority projects, requiring actions that include community education, protected areas, control of trade, captive breeding and scientific research.
IUCN, working with experts worldwide, continued to assess the status of swallowtails, publishing regular updates in The IUCN Red List, an online catalogue of threatened species that replaced the traditional Red Data Books.
As a result of these publications, countries worldwide agreed to list all birdwing butterflies, and many other swallowtails, under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES). This recognition of the problem prompted initiatives to protect swallowtails and other butterflies through national legislation, and to set aside protected areas that include important butterfly habitats. The illegal trade in certain very rare species was suppressed, although certainly not eliminated but at the same time, many common species of swallowtail became more familiar to the general public through the establishment of living displays in glasshouse visitor attractions known as butterfly houses4.
Today, enthusiasts worldwide are increasingly determined to conserve these iconic species to enrich local environments and for the enjoyment of future generations.
The formation of the Trust has built new momentum for swallowtail conservation, with a particular focus on the world’s Top Ten Threatened Species. These include flagships such as Papua New Guinea’s Queen Alexandra’s birdwing and Jamaica’s Homerus swallowtail. Queen Alexandra’s birdwing is one of the world’s rarest, most endangered and most beautiful species and a recent in-depth study and conservation analysis has brought together all existing knowledge into a comprehensive and up-to-date book5.
The Trust also supports conservation of locally endemic or threatened species such as Britain’s Papilio machaon britannicus and Australia’s Richmond birdwing. Surveys and assessments in under-studied or threatened locations are also undertaken; examples have included Dominica and Fiji.
NETWORKING AND COMMUNICATING
Swallowtail experts around the world are contacted, encouraged and incentivised to initiate programmes and projects that build on the momentum that the Trust has created. An important initiative of the Trust is World Swallowtail Day, which is drawing organisations worldwide together. New research projects and publications will continue to be devised, leading in time to the development of a cohesive and proactive swallowtail conservation community across the globe.
Honorary advisors will be identified and recruited, covering such areas of expertise as butterfly ecology, CITES regulations, captive breeding, conservation, taxonomy and, importantly, fundraising and IT specialisms.
SUPPORT FOR THE NEWLY ESTABLISHED TRUST
The Trust has received encouragement and support from corporate partners as well as private individuals and, in time, we hope for support from philanthropic foundations and grant-providing bodies. A founding Patron, Chairman and enthusiastic Trustees have committed to building the Trust from these small beginnings.
1 Papilionidae (collectively swallowtails) includes apollos (Parnassius), festoons (Allancastria and Zerynthia), gorgons (Meandrusa), kites (Eurytides)., dragontails (Lamproptera), swordtails & jays (Graphium), windmills & clubtails (Atrophaneura), birdwings (Trogonoptera, Troides, Ornithoptera), & fluted swallowtails (Papilio).
2 Collins, N.M. and Morris, M.G. (1985). Threatened Swallowtail Butterflies of the World. The IUCN Red Data Book. IUCN, Gland and Cambridge. Vii+401pp. +8 pls.
3 New, T.R. and Collins, N.M. (1991). Swallowtail Butterflies: An Action Plan for Their Conservation. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland. 36pp.
4 Collins, N.M. (1987). Butterfly Houses in Britain: the conservation implications. IUCN, Cambridge. 60pp.
5 Mitchell, D.K., Dewhurst, C.F., Tennent, W.J. and Page, W.W. (2016). Queen Alexandra’s Birdwing. Southdene Sdn. Bhd, Malaysia. 88pp.