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Norfolk scientist Dr Mark Collins launches drive to protect world’s largest butterfly

PUBLISHED: 11:11 26 September 2017 | UPDATED: 11:32 26 September 2017

A local landowner with a female Queen Alexandra's Bridwing. Picture: Dr Mark Collins. Picture: Swallowtail and Birdwing Butterfly Trust

A local landowner with a female Queen Alexandra's Bridwing. Picture: Dr Mark Collins. Picture: Swallowtail and Birdwing Butterfly Trust

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A project driven by a Norfolk scientist has seen the creation of a programme to save the future of the world’s largest but most severely endangered butterfly in Papua New Guinea (PNG).

Dr Mark Collins. Picture: Swallowtail and Birdwing Butterfly Trust Dr Mark Collins. Picture: Swallowtail and Birdwing Butterfly Trust

Although officially recognised as under threat for more than four decades, and protected under PNG’s national laws and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), measures so far have not been enough to save the legendary Queen Alexandra’s Birdwing from encroaching agriculture, logging and illegal trade.

With substantial funding from the SDF in Malaysia and on-the-ground support from New Britain Palm Oil Limited (NBPOL), a brand new state-of-the-art laboratory will be built at NBPOL’s Higaturu palm oil estate for a captive breeding and release programme, coupled with habitat enrichment and protection of remaining forest areas around the oil palm plantations.

The Swallowtail and Birdwing Butterfly Trust (SBBT) was registered as a not-for-profit organisation earlier this year to create a focus on the swallowtail group of butterflies, many of whose species are under threat, with the giant birdwing as its priority.

SBBT Chairman Dr Mark Collins, from Acle, who is also a former director of the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre, said that sustainable conservation requires high quality, practical, on-the-ground conservation, with local communities and business working in partnership.

Dr Collins is co-author of “Threatened Swallowtail Butterflies of the World: the IUCN Red Data Book”, which drew international attention to the problem facing these butterflies more than thirty years ago.

“We need to create win-win relationships,” he said. “Everyone loves butterflies – they are flagship species and can bring back a feel-good factor to those working in the palm oil sector, to local people and as an attraction for eco-tourists,” he said.

SBBT Trustee and entomologist Charles Dewhurst is amongst those providing scientific guidance to the project.

“I am convinced that this project will work. It has the advantage not only of being co-located at the heart of the problem, but also has support from all quarters. This sort of cooperation will make all the difference.”

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