Battle to save PNG’s Birdwing Butterfly

PNG’s pride in the fauna department, the Birdwing Butterfly, is on the brink of extinction in Northern Province, with its density shrunk to only 10 per square kilometre.

Fortunately, a new conservation partnership with Sime Darby Oil Palm Company and the Oro Provincial Government will prevent the reduction of this national treasure.

The conservation project has the full support of the Oro Provincial Government, with Governor Gary Juffa particularly welcoming the plans to benefit local landowners who will be involved in cultivating the vines, enriching damaged habitats and creating facilities for tourists and naturalists to visit the forests and see the spectacular butterflies in their natural setting.

Sime Darby Foundation chairman, Tun Musa Hitam, said the Foundation is confident that the project will have an indelible, sustainable impact on the conservation of the biggest and one of the rarest butterflies in the world.

According to a recent report by Down to Earth magazine, the conservation will see the Swallowtail and Birdwing Butterfly Trust (SBBT), led by entomologists and conservationists, established to conserve and protect butterflies of Papilionidae family globally.

The report further states palm oil producers in the western part are fast expanding into PNG to reach the goal of producing 40 million metric tons by 2020, with the scramble for producing more palm oil leading to rampant clearing of forests – natural habitats of the Birdwing Butterfly.

While Queen Alexandra's birdwing is considered endangered by the IUCN, Papilio moerneri is one of the rarest and least known of all Papua New Guinea Swallowtail butterflies that has not been seen since 1924.

The Southern Tailed Birdwing is also considered vulnerable with its habitat alteration due to volcanic eruption in the 1950s and habitat destruction for oil palm plantations are key reasons why they are pushed to the brink of extinction.

Queen Alexandra’s birdwing, the largest butterfly in the world with a wingspan of 30cm – at least 10 times the size of common butterflies – was discovered in Papua New Guinea in 1906.







Benny Geteng