I’ve never heard of the large blue butterfly let alone it been extinct, until a couple of days ago. I discovered this very important piece of information by accident – all because I wanted to buy a very nice hessian carry bag to carry my herbal goodies in from a Holland and Barratt store. The carry bag has a blue butterfly printed on it. I asked the good lady who helped me with my shopping if this was a special Holland and Barratt bag for their customers. Of course, I did not read the words on the bag. She graciously explained, and I was glad I was the only one in the queue at the counter, that Holland and Barratt was helping with the conservation of the large blue butterfly which was ‘pronounced’ extinct in 1979.
I later found out that 16 June, 2009 marked the 25th anniversary of the re-introduction of the large blue butterfly into England. This was a big celebration for the scientific community especially ecologists, and many others including the iconic Sir David Attenborough.
By buying the carry bag I realised that if more people supported conservation causes whatever form that support took, the chain of life between man and other creatures, great and small will remain unbroken. Alas, in some cases we have been extremely late or too broke perhaps to invest in conservation where large communities of plants, insects etc have disappeared from our world. I walked out of Holland and Barratt proud that in some small way I have supported the conservation of the large blue butterfly.
With a little digging around on the net I’ve discovered that this English native has returned to its habitat – Somerset, southwest England, and how the scientists battled against time, quietly, with empathy and great determination to ensure that the large blue butterfly survived and multiplied. Massive credit and our collective accolades should go to Professor Jeremy Thomas and his colleague David Simcox and the team of dedicated people who gave us back the large blue butterfly. The process they went through and what they did is most fascinating. I applaud their heroic efforts in the conservation of one of England’s many native species. To read about this epic battle for conservation visit : http://www.ceh.ac.uk/news. CEH stands for the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology. The other useful website is: http://www.butterfly-conservation.org.
I love butterflies and my country, Papua New Guinea, is the home of the rare Queen Alexandra Birdwing butterfly (QABB), which has a wing span of about 12″ (30 cm). The QABB can be found in the lowlands of the Northern Province of PNG. The QABB was named after Queen Alexandra of England (1844-1925), the wife of King Edward VII (1841-1910). The QABB is a native of PNG and unfortunately very little is known about it within PNG except conservationists and the aid donors who support its conservation. I was fortunate to be associated with a conscious conservation effort through a bilateral aid programme over 12 or so years ago. Some information on this project can be found at http://www.ausaid.gov.au/publications.
I am not certain at this point in time whether there is an ongoing programme of conservation for the QABB however the species is abundant in its local habitat at the present time, nonetheless it is on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) endangered list. The imminent threat to its survival is the rapid destruction of its habitat for oil palm estate development.
Holland and Barratt’s participation in the conservation of the large blue butterfly is just one support model which could be emulated by the business community as well as the public at large. We can start by supporting companies that suppport conservation of native species and who are working behind the scenes and prominently within our communities to help us appreciate the combined efforts and the way forward to keeping our natives safe from extinction.
Hats off to Professor Jeremy Thomas, David Simcox and other hardworking and caring individuals who are helping to fight the good fight to save our rare butterflies, birds and other fauna and flora from disappearing from our earth.
The now increasing population of the large blue butterfly in Somerset is reason enough to join in the war against extinction. I am sure that no self-respecting citizen of any country in the world would want to hear these words, ever: “you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone”.
Every contribution big or small will continue to provide the resources needed for scientists like Professor Jeremy Thomas, David Simcox and countless others to help the natives fight back. So that they can once more thrive in their rightful habitats on every continent and island across the world.