Helping the beautiful birdwing butterfly to soar again
  • Monday 22 February 2016
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The Richmond birdwing butterfly has been given a helping hand to re-establish itself on the Sunshine Coast thanks to a joint effort between the Queensland Government and Sunshine Coast Council.

Around 80 captive-bred caterpillars were recently released across three council-managed reserves in an endeavour aimed at improving the conservation status of the butterfly which is listed as vulnerable in Queensland.

Department of Environment and Heritage Protection Threatened Species Unit Senior Conservation Officer Dr Ian Gynther said the butterfly’s recovery was a critical priority under EHP’s Back on Track species prioritisation framework.

“A selective breeding and release project has been underway since 2010 with the assistance of the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service’s David Fleay Wildlife Park and Sunshine Coast Council,” Dr Gynther said.

“This caterpillar release is attempting to improve the abundance and genetic diversity of the butterfly’s population in the area and forms part of a larger recovery effort involving supplementary plantings of the host vine and ongoing monitoring by government agencies, non-government organisations and the community.”

Sunshine Coast Council Infrastructure Services Director Andrew Ryan said council’s involvement in the selective breeding and release program further demonstrated their commitment to protecting and enhancing the region’s valuable flora and fauna.

“Council has already undertaken a number of conservation programmes aimed at boosting Richmond birdwing butterfly habitat in the Sunshine Coast region,” he said.

“These conservation programmes have primarily been through the acquisition of strategic land parcels under the Environment Levy and the restoration of habitat through conservation partnership programmes.

“Indeed, at our iconic Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve, a flagship project for the conservation of Richmond birdwing butterfly habitat demonstrates the success that council and the community have been able to achieve in the preservation of population numbers.”

QPWS Ranger-in-Charge at David Fleays Jacqui Seal said populations of the butterfly had been greatly reduced due to threats such as habitat loss and fragmentation which had led to inbreeding and subsequent local extinction.

“The near threatened birdwing butterfly vine is the only lowland food source for developing caterpillars and usually occurs among sub-tropical rainforest vegetation,” Ms Seal said.

“In addition, an introduced garden plant, the Dutchman’s Pipe, is poisonous to the Richmond birdwing butterfly’s caterpillars.

“The reserves in the Sunshine Coast were chosen as release sites based on their secure tenure, the abundance of the birdwing caterpillar’s host plant and the potential they offered to bridge gaps in the butterfly’s former distribution.”

For further information about the Richmond birdwing butterfly visit www.ehp.qld.gov.au and www.sunshinecoast.qld.gov.au