Ulysses butterfly may be extinct: Australian sanctuary

Sydney: The iconic Ulysses electric blue butterfly that once was a common sight in Australia’s Queensland region has become scarce prompting panic among the locals fearing its extinction, a wildlife official said on Tuesday.

The Kuranda-based Australian Butterfly Sanctuary expressed significant concern that the species may become extinct, and called for government support and funding before it disappeared altogether, reported Xinhua news.

The sanctuary’s General Manager Mel Nikolich said that the electric blue butterflies were not seen in the sanctuary in the past six months or ‘maybe be more’.

“We don’t know how much (money) we need as yet, we are now currently working with the researchers at the James Cook University to determine that,” Nikolich said.

The Ulysses butterflies problem lies in their breeding as the caterpillars keep dying.

“We need to find out why. The problem could be anything, even environmental. We don’t know, that’s why we need the research,” she said.

She also said that since the beginning of 2016, the numbers of the iconic butterfly rapidly decreased in the wild, as well as within private stocks of butterfly breeders.

Observations by experienced butterfly breeders and the public indicate that although Ulysses butterflies are still seen in some gardens around the region, the overall numbers in the wild have dwindled.

The sanctuary in the past had reported a 90 per cent success rate in breeding the species. However, the rate plummeted to zero percent in recent months.

There were no Ulysses butterflies on display for tourists at the park.

Senior researchers at the James Cook University in Queensland started discussions with the sanctuary to try and understand the cause behind the disappearance.

“If we see a Ulysses in the wild, it’s usually a male which only adds to the problem as there are not enough females around to breed,” Nikolich added.

The researchers have called for quick action.

“One of the keys to avoid species extinction is to heed the early signs identified by local groups working closely with them,” James Cook University lecturer Tobin Northfield said.