Bursaria for butterflies: a new Connecting Country project for 2022-23
Posted on 1 June, 2022 by Ivan
We are thrilled to announce that Connecting Country was successful in securing a priority threatened species grant from the Australian Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment. The grants are part of the Australian government’s Environment Restoration Fund and Threatened Species Strategy Action Plan, targeting a number of priority threatened species across the country. Our successful grant will focus on the Eltham Copper Butterfly (Paralucia pyrodiscus lucida) and will aim to protect and enhance the priority habitat for the Eltham Copper Butterfly through practical on-ground actions. The grant program provides funding to undertake activities that will protect, enhance, rehabilitate, recover and/or restore priority species and their habitats.
The largest remaining populations of this threatened butterfly are known in the public reserves around Castlemaine VIC. Survey efforts and management actions have focused on public land, yet our 15 years’ experience working with local landholders has identified potential habitat on adjoining private land. This habitat is under threat from urbanisation, fire regimes and grazing. Connecting Country will engage and educate key landholders to protect and restore priority butterfly habitat through controlling threats (weeds and rabbits) and planting vital habitat over 2022-23. Revegetation planting will focus on the butterfly’s host plant, Sweet Bursaria (Bursaria spinosa).
Who is the Eltham Copper Butterfly?
The Eltham Copper Butterfly (Paralucia pyrodiscus lucida) is only found in Victoria, Australia, and is restricted to a several sites around Castlemaine, Bendigo, Kiata (near Nhill) and Eltham in Victoria. It is one of the rare good news stories within the extinction crisis in Australia. It was considered extinct in the 1950s until rediscovered at Eltham in 1986.
Although new populations have been discovered around the state since the Eltham discovery in 1986, the future of this special butterfly remains uncertain. It is listed as threatened under the Victorian Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988 and listed as endangered under the Commonwealth Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. This places considerable importance on the seven sites around the Castlemaine region in central Victoria, where the butterfly exists and has bred successfully.
To download Connecting Country’s useful brochure about the Eltham Copper Butterfly – click here
Not only is this beautiful species threatened, it also has fascinating and highly specialised ecological requirements. It cannot survive without the presence of Sweet Bursaria plants and colonies of a particular species of Notoncus ants. The largest remaining populations of the Eltham Copper Butterfly lie around the town of Castlemaine in central Victoria, with others at Bendigo, Kiata and Eltham in Victoria. They have a weird and wonderful symbiotic association with a Notoncus ant and their host plant, Sweet Bursaria.
What will we deliver?
Through Connecting Country’s local knowledge and established networks, we will target private landholders with properties within or adjoining known butterfly habitat, who demonstrate long-term commitment to protect and restore their land. We will work with them to develop tailored management plans and deliver practical on-ground actions for long-term protection and restoration and connectivity of quality butterfly habitat on their properties. Connecting Country’s Landscape Restoration Coordinator will visit at least 20 key private landholders to identify, assess and prioritise management actions to protect, connect and enhance, existing butterfly habitat
Our project aims to:
- Increase the connectivity and reduce threats for known butterfly populations at Castlemaine Botanic Gardens, Walmer, Dingo Park Road, and Campbells Creek with known breeding habitats by connecting public and private land habitats.
- Protect and improve the quality and quantity of available habitat for Castlemaine’s populations of the Eltham Copper Butterfly.
- Protect and restore more than 10 ha of butterfly habitat where Sweet Bursaria would have grown naturally.
- Engage private landholders adjacent to known populations to commit to long-term protection and restoration of butterfly habitat on their land, reduce the risk of weeds moving into public land sites, and habitat loss due to development or ongoing degradation.
- Engage the broader community to value and protect the Eltham Copper Butterfly and promote best-practice restoration of butterfly habitat.
- Complement and build on recent efforts of local ecologists in identifying existing butterfly habitat around Castlemaine, and the historical monitoring conducted by the Castlemaine community.
Connecting Country is proud to oversee the project in collaboration with our project partners.
We are really excited about more funding for the butterfly and will begin an expression of interest process in the coming months, seeking landholders with properties near known Eltham Copper Butterfly sites. Keep an eye out for updates!