There are nearly 600 species of swallowtails and birdwings across the world, but sadly, many of these spectacular butterflies are under threat.
One of the biggest challenges they face is destruction of their habitat, often due to deforestation, drainage and intensive agriculture. But agro-ecotourism projects which put the community at the heart of their work could provide a lifeline for these wonderful insects.
Richard Markham, SBBT’s Honorary Coordinator for Natewa Swallowtail studies in Fiji, runs one such programme. KokoMana is a small cocoa farm and factory in Daku that seeks to contribute to economic growth and livelihoods in a way that respects local culture and values, while protecting the natural environment.
Sustainability is vital to their operation. From biodegradable packaging to using solar-heated water, KokoMana emphasizes the importance of protecting the local environmental and biodiversity. Keeping a mix of native plant species among the crops also promotes biological control of pests in the crop and sustains a healthy diversity of native species of insects, including butterflies, and birds.
And beyond using environmentally friendly practices and materials to run their factory and farm, they also recognise the importance of empowering local communities.
As well as purchasing cocoa at fair prices from nearby farmers and providing guidance on restoring old cocoa farms, KokoMana work with partners to develop ecotours, which help local communities highlight and protect their unique biodiversity whilst providing vital income.
Thanks to a grant from SBBT, the team have now created a butterfly house at Vusaratu on the Natewa Peninsula to help educate visitors and tourists about the incredible diversity of butterflies in this region, including the Natewa Swallowtail, Papilio natewa.
By showing how ecotourism and agro-ecotourism can support long-term, sustainable livelihoods, SBBT and projects like Richard’s hope that land-owning communities can be empowered to protect their remaining forests and the varied and wonderful wildlife which relies on them. Which may mean you can add saving butterflies to your list of excuses to eat chocolate…