Mallacoota conservationists battle to protect Black Summer impacted butterflies only found in East Gippsland
Two years after the worst bushfires in history tore through the region, conservationists are working together with Landcarers battling to save seven endangered butterflies, found only in East Gippsland.
Researchers and ecologists from the Threatened Species Conservancy and Melbourne University are launching a ground-breaking drive to monitor dwindling populations and protect rare habitat for species including Southern Sedge-darter, Large Ant-blue and Two-spotted Grass-skipper.
Kicking off the initiative in Mallacoota, though eventually moving to multiple locations across the region, the plan will see local volunteers and Landcarers from Far East Victorian Landcare, and traditional owners collaborate to better understand butterfly ecology, identification and survey protocols while land managers will be educated with recommendations on the protection of host plants and butterfly habitat.
With over $250k funding from Landcare Led Bushfire Recovery Grants, it’s hoped these measures will prevent these species from “sliding into extinction unnoticed.”
“As many threatened butterfly species have very localised ranges and unique habitat requirements such as specific host plants and ant associations, it is likely that the fires in East Gippsland will have severely impacted the seven threatened butterfly species that this project will focus on,” explained Abi Smith, CEO Threatened Species Conservancy.
“However, the severity of these impacts are difficult to measure because there aren’t any numbers. Literally no one has done any work in decades and even then, the work that was done was quite scattered. Very little is known.
“So without gathering baseline data and running scientifically rigorous monitoring programs these species will slide into extinction unnoticed. These seven butterfly species have such specific requirements that landscape-scale actions are not going to prevent their local extinction.
“We want to work with those who have local information of the region, to create the data, work together to mitigate the impacts of climate change, and ultimately help us save these fragile butterflies from disappearing forever.”
Additional actions will include investigating the potential for captive breeding and translocation, salvage operations for future fire events and mapping host plants.
Funded by the Australian Government, the $14million Landcare Led Bushfire Recovery Grants are supporting 111 projects in regions impacted by the Black Summer bushfires of 2019/2020.
FULL LIST OF IMPACTED SPECIES
• Southern Sedge-darter Telicota eurychlora (Vic – Endangered)
• Large Ant-blue Acrodipsas brisbanensis (Vic – Endangered)
• Orange-ringlet Hypocysta adiante (Vic – Extinct)
• Silky Hairstreak Pseudalmenus chlorinda fisheri (Aus – Urgent Intervention Required)
• Chequered Sedge-skipper Hesperilla mastersi mastersi (Data Deficient)
• Two-spotted Grass-skipper Pasma tasmanica (Vic – Endangered)
• Common Pencilled-blue Candalides absimilis (Aus – Urgent Intervention Required)
NOTE* This project will address seven threatened butterfly species of East Gippsland. Four of these species are listed under the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988 and another two of them are listed in the Australian Government Bushfire Recovery Package for Wildlife and their Habitat – Provisional list of priority invertebrate species requiring urgent management intervention or on-ground assessment. A single species is Data Deficient and requires further study to understand its distribution and population.