Ornithoptera Richmondia - Abundance and Conservation Status

Abundance and Conservation Status

O. richmondia has never received an official IUCN classification (Collins & Morris, 1985), however Sands & Scott (1997) regarded it to satisfy the "Vulnerable" category because of habitat loss across its former range. Currently, it is considered not of concern in New South Wales and Low Risk (least concern) in Queensland (Sands & New, 2002). This species was previously more abundant than it is now, especially in Queensland, with Illidge (1927) noting the species to be common in Brisbane City in the early 1900s.

North of Brisbane, the species is now restricted to small patches of remnant rainforest with relatively few populations secure in National Parks or forest reserves; strongholds include the Connondale and Blackall Ranges. Ornithoptera richmondia is more abundant south of the Nerang River, especially in Lamington National Park and the associated border ranges. Threatening processes for this species are habitat loss and several previously robust populations near Buderim now locally extinct due to habitat destruction for housing and commercial development, other habitat clearing activities and edge effects, which alter the climatic conditions required for the immature stages of this species to successfully develop. Another threatening process is the non-native environmental weed Aristolochia elegans, or Dutchman's Pipevine (see below).

In recent years, retired CSIRO entomologist D.P.A. Sands has led a series of recovery projects for O. richmondia. The first was largely run in association with the CSIRO's Double Helix school program (Sands and Scott 1997) and focused on planting Pararistolochia pravenosa, in schools and conservation reserves. The current recovery programme is run through the Richmond Birdwing Butterfly Recovery Network, which aims to establish corridors between existing populations and assist existing populations by planting hostplants, maintain previous plantings of hostplants, propagate further vines for future planting and continue education and public awareness through seminars and newsletters. Both campaigns have been extremely successful in establishing the Richmond Birdwing as a flagship species for rainforest conservation in south-eastern Queensland (Sands & Scott, 1997).

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