Captive-breeding & Release Project

Strengthening the genetic makeup of breeding populations of birdwing across their Queensland range

© Amanda Little

Home 9 Project 9 Captive-Breeding & Release Project (Dept. of Environment & Science)

About this project

Since 2010, the Department of Environment and Science, along with the Richmond Birdwing Conservation Network (RBCN) and David Fleay Wildlife Park, has been involved in a joint project to help conserve the vulnerable Richmond birdwing butterfly (Ornithoptera richmondia) using a captive-breeding and release strategy.

Under the breeding program, Richmond birdwing butterflies from geographically separate sources have been mated with the aim of producing more genetically diverse offspring. These captive-reared progenies have been reintroduced at selected sites to help restore wild populations.

Following the first releases in 2010, evidence of natural breeding by the butterfly and more than a dozen flying adults were seen in the Kin Kin and Cootharaba areas of the Sunshine Coast for the first time in almost two decades.

    In May 2018, the Swallowtail and Birdwing Butterfly Trust generally donated £500 to the RBCN to put towards the acquisition of vines to support the Department of Environment and Science captive-breeding and release project. 

    Read the full report here (pdf).

    RBB selective mating© Richard Bull

    Selective mating (outbreeding) of Richmond birdwing butterflies.

    Results of translocations

    To date, more than 500 Richmond birdwing butterflies, mostly larvae and pupae, have been reintroduced across nine sites in South East Queensland.

    • After long absences, butterflies are again present at reintroduction
    • Adults and larvae observed at distances up to 20km away soon afterwards.
    • Monitoring has revealed evidence of ongoing natural breeding at release sites.
    • Anecdotal reports of increases in numbers of birdwings seen in areas surrounding supplementation locations.

    Watch the Wildlife Queensland Richmond Birdwing Butterfly Webinar for more information about the Captive-breeding & Release Project.

    Birdwing vines© Ian Gynther

    The first batch of young birdwing butterfly vines, acquired in November 2018 using grant money donated by the Swallowtail and Birdwing Butterfly Trust.

    Ongoing activities

    Ongoing critical breeding work as part of this project is being carried out at David Fleay Wildlife Park and the Department of Environment and Science Moggill facility. 

    I thank the Swallowtail and Birdwing Butterfly Trust for its generous donation to the RBCN that made possible the acquisition of new birdwing butterfly vine stock for use in the DES Captive-breeding & Release Project.

    Matt Cecil

    Projects Manager, Wildlife Queensland

    Partners & sponsors

    • Department of Environment and Science
    • David Fleay Wildlife Park
    • Swallowtail and Birdwing Butterfly Trust
    • Natura Pacific
    • Tamborine Rainforest Skywalk
    • Proplants Nursery

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