butterfly butterfly butterfly
Heliconidae butterflies, left to right: Eueides isabella, Heliconius melpomene, H. ismenius. Cerro Cahui National Park, Guatemala.

Fighting butterfly poachers - Part 3

Bhutan glory (Bhutanistis lidderdalii),
Eastern Himalaya.
2001 update: In July 2001, two Russian butterfly hunters were arrested in a National park in Sikkim, India. I was involved in this case as the only independent expert, while the international insect mafia (represented by some professional entomologists from Germany and Russia) and Russian consulate tried to get the poachers out of jail. Thanks to local environmentalits, these two "scientists" had to spend few weeks under arrest, although they eventually got away with the crime after paying a symbolic fine. The English translation of an article I wrote for Arguments and Facts, Russia's most popular weekly newspaper, is here.
2002 update: Bernhard Wenczel, a Swiss entomologist, is breeding rare species of Saturnidae moths and other insects. He also tries to develop a sustainable model of insect collecting in Peru by teaching local butterfly hunters how to minimize bycatch and breed the species most wanted by collectors. His goal is to make forest conservation economically attractive for local people by providing a source of income which depends on preserving forest rather than destroying it. plain
Rainforest replaced with pastures and coca
plantations, Sierra de Macarena
National Park, Colombia.

Swiss Alps.

Unfortunately, people like Bernhard Wenczel are still a tiny minority. Most dealers are more interested in destruction rather than conservation, and even better-protected areas in Europe and North America are in danger. As Bernhard himself told me:
"In 1986 in the Verzasca Valley of Ticino State, I saw some kids hunting a recently described endemic subspecies of Parnassius phoebus. They didn't collect the butterflies, just killed and threw away. I asked them about it. They didn't know why they were doing it, but said that they'd been paid by some Japanese guy to kill as many butterflies as they could. I never saw him, but I informed the local police..." Apparently, some commercial dealer tried to drive the subspecies to extinction just to beat up prices.

Euxena moth, Mount
Kinabalu, Sabah.
Lyssa zampa moth,
Gunung Mulu, Sarawak.
This large moth is commonly
seen on forest trails at night.
Eupterote moth, Mount
Kinabalu, Sabah.
Tropical countries paying enough attention to protecting biodiversity are even more rare than honest insect dealers. In striking contrast with most other nations of Southeastern Asia, Malaysia managed to preserve large tracts of forests, and is doing its best to protect its wonderful Nature reserves. Even the most beautiful butterflies and moths are still common there. bfly
Thauria aliris is well
camouphlaged when
sitting on the forest
But it turns into an
explosion of color
if flushed. Templer
Park, Malaysia.
bfly bfly bfly bfly bfly bfly bfly
Butterflies of Malaysia, left to right: Papilio memnon, Troides helena, Graphium sarpedon, Trigonoptera brookeana, Appias sp., Eurema andersonii, Lexias pardolis.
Giant Heterometreus scorpio,
Taman Negara, Malaysia.
Xylotrupes rhinoceros beetle,
Niah Caves, Sarawak.
Large beetles, scorpions, and moths are becoming increasingly rare in most tropical areas, as thousands are collected for souvenir trade. Beyond doubt, some illegal collectors manage to enter Malaysia's Nature reserves, but their impact there is not yet so obvious as elsewhere.
2003 update: In Mexico and Central America, overcollecting seems to be a minor threat compared to habitat destruction. Forests outside protected reserves are mostly gone; even National parks do not offer much of protection in most countries in the region. bfly
Siproeta stelenes, El Tajin, Veracruz.
Chlosyne janais, Tikal, Guatemala.
bfly bfly
Dione moneta, Heliconius charitonius. El Cielo Biosph. Res., Tamaulipas.
In Mexico and Guatemala, cloud forests seem to be even more threatened than lowland rainforests. I ended up bying a tiny patch of cloud forest in a desperate attempt to save its inhabitants from extinction - details here.
moth moth
Moths of El Cielo Biosphere Reserve, Tamaulipas.

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