Community collaboration continues: Wildlife Queensland and West Village working to safeguard threatened Richmond birdwing butterfly

RBCN West Village vine workshop

25 August 2023

Wildlife Queensland and the Richmond Birdwing Conservation Network (RBCN) continue to join forces with West Village to enhance the recovery of the threatened Richmond birdwing butterfly (Ornithoptera richmondia).

West Village, an eco-friendly urban hub in Brisbane’s West End, provides an ideal backdrop for workshops with its lush surroundings. This month, Wildlife Queensland presented another three public workshops at the village where local residents explored community involvement in Richmond birdwing butterfly conservation.

Wildlife Queensland and RBCN’s Matt Cecil and Hannah Thomas discussed the significance of birdwing butterfly vines and planting techniques in the workshops. The caterpillars (or larvae) of Richmond birdwing butterflies only feed naturally on two species of vines:

  • the lowland birdwing butterfly vine (Pararistolochia praevenosa)
  • the mountain aristolochia (Pararistolochia laheyana).

The birdwing butterfly vine has been cultivated to assist in the recovery of the breeding habitats for the butterfly.

Planting vines to entice threatened butterfly

Planting birdwing butterfly vines will aid the revival of the Richmond birdwing butterfly by forming habitat corridors. Despite urban obstacles, community engagement and vine planting can help entice the species back.

Balcony and rooftop gardens can provide fantastic conditions for growing plants that a range of native wildlife can enjoy. Birdwing butterfly vines are suitable for growing under these conditions and may provide resources for female Richmond birdwings upon their future return to Brisbane.

“This time of year is ideal for planting birdwing butterfly vines and spotting butterflies. They’re appearing earlier this year, possibly due to unusually warm weather,” says Wildlife Queensland Projects Manager Matt Cecil.

Declining Richmond birdwing populations in Queensland

The Richmond birdwing, Australia’s biggest subtropical butterfly, is native to northern New South Wales and South East Queensland. Populations have declined in Queensland since the 1920s following the loss and fragmentation of their habitats, mainly lowland rainforests. The species is protected in Queensland, where it is classified as vulnerable under the Nature Conservation Act 1992.

The RBCN aims to revive the butterfly and its vital food source, the birdwing butterfly vine, in its natural ranges. The partnership with West Village spans two years, encouraging community participation in the butterfly’s recovery.

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