Thursday, July 29, 2010

New butterfly species discovered in Papua New Guinea by UK specialist

An expedition by UK butterfly specialist, John Tennent, to the outlying islands of Milne Bay has discovered a number of new butterfly species and highlighted important previously unknown information on the distribution of Papua New Guinea butterflies.

Mr Tennent is halfway through an eight-month British Natural History Museum-sponsored expedition to survey the unique butterfly populations of the islands of Milne Bay Province.

His visits to the Conflict Group, Marshall Bennett, Egum Atoll, Woodlark and the Trobriand Islands have already unveiled a wealth of new data.

“For example, a small blue butterfly previously only recorded from a few specimens found on Sudest Island more than 100 years ago has now been found on Iwa (Marshall Bennett Islands), Kitava (Trobriand Islands), Egum Atoll and the Conflict Islands.

“This kind of new information illustrates just how little we know about the fauna of some of the islands which, although often small and remote, are rich in insects and other wildlife. The fact that the islands are also amongst the most beautiful places on earth is also a real bonus for me,” he said upon his return to Alotau from Woodlark Island.

During his travels, Mr Tennent has discovered several butterfly species and subspecies that have never been recognised before and will spend many months working on bringing them to the notice of the international scientific community when he eventually returns to the UK later in the year.

British High Commissioner to PNG, David Dunn, said the discovery of so many more butterflies in the islands of Milne Bay shows the significance of PNG’s overall standing as a world biodiversity hotspot.

“This is not only the discovery of new butterfly species but a valuable addition to information and general research work already done on the islands.

“The fact these islands have such an abundance of wildlife underlines the need for the world to recognise PNG as a unique guardian of world flora and fauna and do what we can to help the people of PNG to protect and benefit from its unique biodiversity,” he said.

Mr Tennent is working closely with the PNG National Research Institute (NRI) and the Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC).

 His expedition is funded by the Natural History Museum, Royal Entomological Society and the Linnean Society in London, as well as by a grant from National Geographic in Washington DC.

He has just returned from Woodlark, where Woodlark Mining Limited generously hosted his visit and enabled him to go to some of the more remote islands in the region including Egum Atoll, Gawa and Alcester.

1 comment:

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