Bringing back the Boulder Butterfly

Posted on 01 July 2022
Three butterflies
Boulder Butterflies
© Burnside Primary School
The Boulder Copper butterfly used to live across Canterbury, but due to habitat loss, its numbers have declined. It is now found only sparingly in a few locations and was missing from Christchurch. That is until a group of children decided to bring it back.

Burnside Brings Back Boulder Butterfly (5B) is led by Burnside Primary School working with lepidopterist and Boulder Copper butterfly specialist, Brian Patrick, and entomologist Ruud ‘Bug Man’ Kleinpaste. 

In 2021, they successfully introduced a small population into the butterfly garden they created at their school. And the first new generation of butterflies emerged in this ‘test patch’ habitat. 

This year, 5B are expanding. They are creating a larger scale butterfly garden at their school, as well as supporting Orana Park Zoo and three other satellite schools to build their own habitat and give the Boulder Copper a permanent home in Christchurch.

They also hope to work with experts to understand the life cycle, make observations, record findings like true scientists, and most importantly make decisions and come up with ideas to implement change and conservation of this unique species. And to work with local iwi to give the butterfly a culturally appropriate Māori name.

As with everything in the last few years, Covid-19 has caused delays, but they are making good progress. Boulder Coppers are now also happily living at Our Lady Star of The Sea School as well. While the first garden at Orana Park was unfortunately eaten by rabbits before it could be properly established. These enterprising young people have a plan for that and are already working on version two.

They’ve been successfully growing Muehlanbecia axillaris, the butterfly’s main food source, from seed and cutting. Monitoring of the butterflies in the original site also continues. With three generations of Boulder Copper butterflies now having been ‘born’ onsite. 

This project was funded by the WWF Environmental Education Action Fund, run in partnership with The Tindall Foundation. Providing hundreds of students the opportunity to learn about the importance of being kaitiakitanga of native species and the skills to be their future guardians. 
Three butterflies
Boulder Butterflies
© Burnside Primary School Enlarge