IUCN Red List Conservation Status: Endangered
Graphium sandawanum, which has no common name, is confined to Mt Apo in Mindanao, the Philippines. The mountain has been a national park since 1936 but has suffered constant encroachment by squatters. The government has agreed to lease 56 percent of the park’s area to the squatters; much of this area is still under virgin forest. Drought followed by fires in 1983 caused a further loss of forest on Mt Apo. There is international concern for the fate of the park, which is a stronghold for the Endangered Philippine Monkey-eating Eagle as well as this rare and beautiful butterfly.
This recently discovered, black and pale yellow, short-tailed butterfly has a forewing length of about 38 mm in the male, and 41 mm in the female. The sexes are similar, the female with a slightly paler ground colour (3, 7, 11). The upper forewing has a dark brown or black ground colour and a very broad yellow-green discal band running from the anal margin and tapering into three subapical spots (3,7,11). The upper hindwing is similar, with the yellow-green discal band tapering towards the anal angle. There is also a row of pale green submarginal lunules (3, 7, 11).
The lower surfaces are blackish-brown with a paler distal border. The discal band is yellow green as on the upper surface, but there are a number of small red or yellow markings on the distal edge of the band on the hindwing. The ratio of the red-spotted form to the yellow-spotted form has been estimated at 7:3 in the male (11).
This remarkable species was discovered as recently as 1977 on Mt Apo (2954 m) in central Mindanao, Philippines (12). So far it has been found nowhere else. After some 50 years of collecting by lepidopterists in the Mt Apo region it is quite extraordinary to find that in its chosen locations both males and females of this species are relatively abundant (10). No-one knows why it was not discovered earlier.
Habitat and Ecology
Graphium sandawanum is considered to be an Ice Age relict of Palaearctic continental stock (11). According to Tsukada and Nishiyama, it usually flies in the mossy, montane forest of Mt Apo (11), the broad green bands on the wings making it very conspicuous. The foodplants and young stages are unknown, but other members of the sarpedon group feed on Winteraceae, Monimiaceae, Lauraceae or Hernandiaceae, rarely other groups (4) . Graphium sarpedon itself also flies on Mt Apo (12), but is less common at altitudes over 1000m, where sandawanum flies (11). Graphium sandawanum has been captured from January to June, October and December, and is probably present all year round, possibly with reduced populations during the heavy rains of February to May (7, 10, 11). Mt Apo may be approached from Davao or Cotabato. The butterflies apparently fly in greater abundance on the western, Cotabato, side (11).
Mt Apo is the highest mountain in the Philippines (2909 m) and was designated as a national park as long ago as 1936, with a total area of 76 900 ha (9). Since then it has undergone a number of amendments in terms of classification and land use (9), but none so alarming as the newspaper and other reports that 56 percent of the area, almost 42 000 ha, is reclassified as ‘disposable land’ and handed over to illegal squatters (2, 7). Squatters have settled in the park since 1945 and current records indicate that 4034 families are living within the park boundaries (2). Attempts have been made in the past to reforest the lower slopes of Mt Apo and restore the natural beauty and integrity of the park (1). The latest proclamation indicates that these measures have been largely unsuccessful. The 42 000 ha will be leased to the squatters for 25 years, but only 35 percent of this is currently suitable for commercial agriculture. The other 65 percent is still under forest but is likely to be exploited very quickly since the new proclamation will allow squatters to take up loans to expand their farms (2).
A further threat was the serious drought of 1982-3 that affected eastern Mindanao, eastern Borneo and perhaps other islands. In the wake of the drought, huge fires destroyed vast areas of forest. In Mindanao, whole mountains have been burnt through and both Mt Apo and Mt Katanglad suffered badly (8).
Public concern has been mainly for the Endangered Phillippine Monkey-eating Eagle (Pithecophaga jefferyi) (6) but there is undoubtedly a wide range of other species, including Graphium sandawanum, whose livelihood is threatened by these recent developments.
Reports confirm that quantities of G. sandawanum specimens reach butterfly dealers in Manila and are sold on the international market (5). The most likely source of the material is local youths employed by dealers in remote cities (possibly even overseas) to collect the butterflies on Mt Apo. Such arrangements are not only irresponsible but are also quite illegal since the butterfly only occurs within national park boundaries. The Philippine authorities should take steps to prevent such blatent abuse of their national legislation.
There is evidence that the proclamation to lease such a huge area to squatters on Mt Apo was not supported by a thorough survey of the forests and agricultural land within the boundaries adopted (2,7). Those areas irretrievably occupied by squatters are of no value for the conservation of Mt Apo’s wildlife, but to expand squatters’ privileges into virgin forested land of a national park would appear to be short-sighted. Much basic scientific work remains to be done on Mt Apo. Undoubtedly many species await discovery and only thorough survey work will reveal the full international importance of the park. Meanwhile, the national park authorities should prevent the constant erosion of the park’s boundaries and wildlife.
This page has been transcribed and edited, with permission, from Threatened Swallowtail Butterflies of the World: the IUCN Red Data Book by N.M. Collins & M.G. Morris. Whilst providing a sound baseline of information, it is in need of updating. The full volume, with references, may be downloaded from the IUCN Library System.
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