Hunt be­gins for rare na­tive but­ter­fly

Central Leader - - OUT & ABOUT - JAMES PASLEY

A na­tion­wide hunt has be­gun to save a rare na­tive New Zealand but­ter­fly with no close rel­a­tives.

The hunt is the first step in a long term project headed by Moths and But­ter­flies of New Zealand Trust to im­prove the na­tive for­est ringlet but­ter­flys’ bleak fu­ture.

Steve Wheat­ley, a se­nior con­ser­va­tion spe­cial­ist from But­ter­fly Con­ser­va­tion in Eng­land, has been brought half­way across the world to tour New Zealand gath­er­ing records about past and present lo­ca­tions of the but­ter­fly.

The dis­tinc­tive orange, black, white and yel­low but­ter­fly was once found through­out New Zealand’s forests, but has now de­clined to a few re­mote ar­eas.

It tends to live and fly high in for­est glades, from near sea-level to the tree line. Fe­males can be seen on or near grass-like plants, where they lay their eggs.

Eric Ed­wards, science ad­viser for the Depart­ment of Con­ser­va­tion said they are clas­si­fied as ‘at risk’.’’

There is no def­i­nite cause be­hind the but­ter­fly’s de­cline.

How­ever Jac­qui Knight, sec­re­tary of the Monarch But­ter­fly NZ Trust, said that once they can es­tab­lish ar­eas where the but­ter­fly has left they can draw con­clu­sions.

‘‘We can cor­re­late that in­for­ma­tion against other plants that have dis­ap­peared or against wasps that are ap­pear­ing and then work out why but­ter­fly num­bers have fallen,’’ Knight said.

‘‘If we can find out why they’re re­treat­ing there’s a good chance we can save them.’’

Dr Peter Mad­di­son, for­mer pres­i­dent of For­est & Bird, said de­clin­ing num­bers of for­est ringlets was first ob­served dur­ing the 1990s.

‘‘It is thought that wasps were

SUP­PLIED

The en­dan­gered na­tive for­est ringlet but­ter­fly tends to live and fly high in for­est glades.

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