Fears for Australia’s famous migratory butterfly

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Environmentalists blame climate change, land clearing and pesticides for the population collapse of one of Australia’s most famous insects. Once commonplace, bogong butterflies have become rare in recent years. They are now recognized as threatened by the world’s leading scientific authority on vulnerable species, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

The Bogong butterfly is native to Australia. The massive migration of billions of small insects has long been a spectacular sight in eastern Australia.

Scientists say butterflies are guided by the stars and the earth’s magnetic fields.

They fly up to 1,000 kilometers from Queensland to the Victoria Mountains for shelter in caves from the summer heat. In the caves, it was once estimated that there were up to 17,000 butterflies per square meter.

But Jess Abrahams, an Australian Conservation Foundation nature activist, says the number of bogong butterflies has plummeted.

“This is a dramatic decline, and this population collapse has been caused by extreme drought brought on by climate change in their breeding grounds in western Queensland. There has also been clearing of land for many years, the use of pesticides as well, and the consequence is a huge collapse in numbers and the effects on other species are of great concern. This should be a wake-up call because we are in the midst of an extinction crisis. We see (a) a million species around the world threatened with extinction and literally these things are disappearing before our eyes, ”Abrahams said.

The decline of the bogong butterfly has a cascading effect on other species. They were a major food source for another critically endangered animal, the mountain pygmy possum. It is believed that less than 2,000 of Australia’s only hibernating marsupials are left in the wild.

The butterfly is one of 124 Australian animals and plants that were added in December to the “Red List” of endangered species compiled by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. They include several other types of insects and the gray-headed flying fox, which is Australia’s largest bat.

The Red List classifies how close the world’s animal, plant and fungal species are to extinction, and includes sharks, rays and birds. Many populations are strained by global warming, deforestation, habitat loss and pollution.

Campaigners are urging the Australian government to do more to save moths that were once so abundant in cities like Sydney and Canberra that their large numbers have disrupted sporting events.

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