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Are we losing butterfly species?

Are we losing butterfly species?

Trustees of the Moths and Butterflies of New Zealand Trust endorse the call of Environment Commissioner, Simon Upton, for more cohesive data collection and knowledge about this country’s biodiversity.

In Nelson, MBNZT member Chrissie Ward has been walking weekly transects since 2009. Transects are a method of monitoring butterfly and moth numbers involving walking a fixed route and recording sightings. An initial analysis of the data collected shows a drastic reduction in the numbers of indigenous butterflies since 2015.

“The transect Chrissie walks is about 5 km, taking in residential and park areas of Nelson,” said Dr Philip Mladenov, MBNZT trustee. “The results appear alarming. Indications are that our butterfly species are in decline.”

Secretary of the MBNZT, Jacqui Knight, agrees.

“What is even more alarming is that most people don’t recognise our butterfly and moth species,” she said. “If you don’t recognise a species, how are you going to know if it is in decline or not? Or how to encourage them, how to save them?”

Ecologist Brian Patrick in Christchurch shares their concern.

“The forest ringlet is a classic example of our at-risk butterflies,” added Brian. “This iconic species is regarded as ‘in serious decline’. Although it’s a treetop butterfly, it was once found on Auckland’s North Shore, in Northland’s forest and in the Wellington region.” The MBNZT is working on a project to save this spectacular butterfly, only found in NZ, hopefully this year identifying what is affecting its numbers.

“These beauties are teetering on the edge of survival,” Brian said. “The plight of our butterfly fauna is heavily dependent on human respect if they are to survive and thrive.” Further analysis of the collected transect data is being undertaken and the MBNZT hopes that more people will get involved in walking transects.

“Chrissie and her partner, Tony, have dedicated much time and effort to these walks over the years, and what they have accomplished is inspirational,” said Mladenov. “We would welcome more citizen scientists.” ENDS

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