NZ's only forest butterfly faces extinction

The forest ringlet butterfly has experienced a major decline in numbers.
Brian Patrick

The forest ringlet butterfly has experienced a major decline in numbers.

The elegant native butterfly, the forest ringlet or Dodonidia helmsi, is on the brink of extinction, experts claim. 

Up until the 1970s, forest ringlet butterflies were found throughout New Zealand districts, ranges and regional parks. However, over the last few decades it has experienced a major decline in both numbers and distribution.  

The Moths and Butterflies of New Zealand Trust has reached out to a Senior Conservation Officer, Steve Wheatley, from Sir David Attenborough's Butterfly Conservation in the UK to advise on how best to protect the butterfly, New Zealand's only true forest butterfly.

Wheatley will travel to New Zealand in the summer when the forest ringlet is known to breed, and carry out critical field research.

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The cause of the decline in the species has been under much debate and speculation from expert entomologists.
 
Wheatley will work closely with New Zealand entomologists and research the causes of the apparent decline, understand variables within the butterfly population, complete information on larval food plants to determine a preference for particular hosts in different areas and investigate the conditions necessary for mass-breeding.
 
The Moths and Butterflies of New Zealand Trust has launched a Givealittle page, called The Forest Ringlet Butterfly Project, to fundraise for Wheatley's vital research equipment and travel expenses.
 
Jacqui Knight, the founder of the Moths and Butterflies of New Zealand Trust said that, "the forest ringlet is quite unique in that it is only found in this country, and it's the only one of its species in the world. It really is a New Zealand icon."
 
The Moths and Butterflies of New Zealand Trust is a charitable trust which is committed to promoting New Zealand's biodiversity by ensuring the protection and conservation of moths, butterflies and their habitats.

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 - NZ Gardener

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