Bring Back the Birdwing: 500 Vines

By Wildlife Preservation Society of Queensland

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"Happiness is a butterfly..."

Can you imagine a world without butterflies? Sadly, many of us have never experienced the joy of seeing a Richmond Birdwing Butterfly. Yet newspapers from early last century reported the delight in seeing thousands of these huge, iridescent butterflies in the streets of Brisbane.

Right now the remnant colonies of the Richmond Birdwing Butterfly are small and isolated and their survival is in peril.

This beautiful native butterfly is on the verge of extinction, but it doesn't have to be this way...

In 2013, Wildlife Queensland and its dedicated Richmond Birdwing Conservation Network (RBCN) devised a plan to rescue this spectacular native species from the verge of extinction.

The solution was simple, and it still is:

"Plant them and they will come!"

There is one special plant that this butterfly depends on - without it the butterfly can’t breed. It’s a native vine called Pararistolochia praevenosa but is much better known as the Birdwing Butterfly Vine.

Each year the butterflies seek out this vine, and this vine alone. They can spot it from miles away and identify it close-up by its smell! They lay their eggs on the underside of the vine's leaves and when the butterfly larvae hatch, they start nibbling away.

There are no other sources of food in the subtropical lowlands for these hungry little caterpillars.

In 2014 Wildlife Queensland raised the money and organised the planting of 1000 vines for the Richmond Birdwing Butterfly across carefully selected sites in Queensland's south-east.

According to plan, these first 1000 vines are well on their way to establishing desperately needed corridors between existing Birdwing Butterfly populations.

But our work is not yet done...

By examining RBCN data, we have identified that the northern and southern populations of the butterfly are still separated by gaps in essential habitat - vines.

"It is critical that we connect these populations by creating stepping-stone populations of the vine to 'join the dots'. Without this, gene flow cannot occur and the species simply will not persist in a healthy way." Matt Cecil, Projects Manager Wildlife Queensland.

The solution is so achievable: we need to plant more of these special vines - before it's too late!

Wildlife Queensland is working with Councils in the area (Logan City, Gold Coast City, Scenic Rim Regional and Moreton Bay Regional) to organise the linking of these two core populations of the Richmond Birdwing Butterfly in 2018.

This program building on the success of 17 years of activity to stabilise Birdwing Butterfly populations in the area, has been diligently designed to succeed. It involves propagating and growing the vines in selected nurseries, planting them in strategically chosen locations and then maintaining them to ensure they have the best opportunity to survive.

Precise planting sites are selected based on suitability of habitat type, accessibility for planting and maintenance, and their proximity to one another (close enough for the butterflies to 'smell').

To create these critical stepping-stones for the vulnerable Richmond Birdwing Butterfly we will need to plant at least 500 vines throughout these selected locations in 2018. To do that we will need $12,500.

Propagating, growing, planting and maintaining one Richmond Birdwing Butterfly Vine to ensure it survives and thrives costs $25.

The vines are grown by specialist licensed plant nurseries and we must confirm by 13 October the exact number of vines we will be in a position to purchase at the end of this special appeal.

Planting the Richmond Birdwing Butterfly Vine is a sure-fire way of rescuing this beautiful native species from extinction. But we need more vines if all our efforts so far are to succeed!

Imagine the feeling in five, ten or twenty years’ time when you, your children or your grandchildren see a Richmond Birdwing Butterfly, knowing it was the vines you planted that brought them back from the brink.

Please, will you help rescue the Richmond Birdwing Butterfly from extinction? Will you make a tax-deductible donation now to help us grow more of the butterfly’s host plant and ensure the survival of this spectacular native species?

Can you picture the skies full of Richmond Birdwing Butterflies once again? That’s what will happen when work together to Bring Back the Birdwing. Never again will we have to imagine a world without them!

Yours sincerely,

Peter Ogilvie

President, Wildlife Queensland.

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