North Coast residents are being asked to look out for an extremely rare butterfly found along the coastal strip from Port Macquarie to Tweed Heads, ahead of Threatened Species Day (7 September).
The Australian Fritillary (Argynnis hyperbius inconstans) has a 6cm wingspan and is covered in orange-brown and black markings.
Populations of the Australian Fritillary have dramatically declined in NSW and it is now listed nationally as critically endangered.
Mick Andren, Senior Threatened Species Officer at the Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) is calling on the community to help find and photograph the Australian Fritillary.
‘There have been a few credible sightings of the butterfly recently, but no photographs or specimens have been officially recorded,” Mr Andren said.
‘These sightings give us hope that wild populations still exist, but we need the help of the community to find them.
‘The best place to try and spot the butterfly is in coastal locations where the arrowhead violet (Viola betonicifolia) grows; the only known food plant of the endangered Australian Fritillary butterfly.
‘The plant often grows unobtrusively beneath grasses and other vegetation and is easiest to find during the cooler months when it is flowering.
‘One of the best ways to spot the butterfly is to look in open areas near patches of violets and other flowering plants during sunny weather, as that’s where they tend to fly.
‘Take care not to confuse the Australian Fritillary butterfly with other orange and black butterfly species by carefully checking the patterning,’ Mr Andren said.
If you are confident you have spotted an Australian Fritillary butterfly:
• make careful observations and try to photograph it
• note details of the exact location and take pictures of the site
• immediately contact the OEH Ecosystems and Threatened Species Unit, Coffs Harbour: (02) 6659 8252
Surveys for this species have been conducted over the past four years under the NSW Government’s Saving Our Species conservation program in collaboration with the Lepidoptera Conservation Group of North-East NSW.
Mr Andren said survey work has focused on locations where the Australian Fritillary was most recently seen or where the arrowhead violet grows in abundance. The butterfly has been recorded year-round, with males observed more often than females.
“As we get closer to Spring it is a good time to look out for this species, it would be truly spectacular to find the Australian Fritillary,” Mr Andren said.
Threatened Species Day is celebrated on 7 September each year to raise awareness of plants and animals at risk of extinction and to highlight the work that is being done to save them.
For further information on the Australian Fritillary butterfly visit: www.environment.nsw.gov.au/threatenedspeciesapp/profile.aspx?id=10064