The Blogging Business

This first blog post gives you a bit of background into what the MBNZT all about, the conservation of our New Zealand butterflies. Our mission (to engage with New Zealanders to ensure our biodiversity promotes a thriving moth and butterfly population) is so important.

I apologise for the length but hope you have the time to read it!

Way back…

In 1975 – that’s 46 years ago – I became concerned about what people (me and others) were doing to their environment. A group called Friends of the Earth put me in touch with the late Jeanette Fitzsimons (who went on to become the co-leader of the Green Party). She was an inspiration to me as I searched for more environmentally-friendly ways of living my life and raising my family.

A new environmental group, Friends of the Home, is formed… Jacqui Knight (front left),
the late Jeanette Fitzsimmons CNZM (far right) behind Lindsay Jeffs (FoE) on the floor

Our mission… to engage with New Zealanders to ensure our biodiversity promotes a thriving moth and butterfly population

When I became a mother i did what my mother had done with me, spending time outdoors with my sons, letting their curiosity open their minds to Nature. We had fun finding out the answers to their questions, learning together. Visits to the library and phone calls to experts were the norm – we didn’t have the advantage of the internet at our fingertips.

Why butterflies?

Butterflies were always a key focus as with the monarch we could watch the whole process of metamorphosis and learn about the relationship between flora and fauna, the interdependence of biodiversity. I began to understand that Earth’s ecosystems had evolved for millions of years, resulting in diverse and complex biological communities, all living in balance with the environment – the web of life. But today human activity has impacted Nature in every part of the world. Wild animals and plants are at risk of extinction. Deforestation and land degradation are causing lack of drinkable water and erosion. And climate change! The pollution from plastic! It’s tragic.

Female monarch on Tithonia diversifolia

Back then, other parents began to ask me to visit their schools and kindergartens and teach about monarch butterflies. I began to realise there was so much I didn’t know… but the monarch is a wonderful teacher. With my family we visited Butterfly Bay which we’d been told was a prime overwintering site for the monarch butterfly in New Zealand. That was the early 1980’s.

Butterfly Bay, 1980s

Not so long agao…

25 years later I was living in Northland and I heard that Butterfly Bay was about to be developed. I didn’t want to see this ecosystem destroyed and thought it would be a good idea to liaise with the developer and ensure that they understood the significance of this beautiful corner of Aotearoa New Zealand. I asked three friends if they would help me form the Monarch Butterfly New Zealand Trust with the aim of protecting the monarch butterfly. In the end the development never went ahead but the MBNZT grew from strength to strength and morphed into the Moths and Butterflies of NZ Trust.

Meanwhile I was learning so much about our own beautiful butterfly and moth species. Did you know that NZ has about 2,000 species of moth – possibly more – and more than 90% of them are only found in this country (endemic)! We are short on butterfly species but what we do have are pretty amazing too.

Aotearoa New Zealand has over 2,000 species
of moth and over 90% of them are endemic.

Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand

Surprise, surprise!

What surprised me was how little people knew about our ‘other’ butterfly species. I had a sneaking suspicion about this so I stood outside a garden centre one day to do my own research… “What butterfly species did they know about in NZ?”

The answers: ‘the monarch’ (or sometimes it was the ‘big orange one’) and then ‘that small white one which is a pest’. That was all. Very few people today knew about our other species.

More and more concerned about what’s happening to our environment, this week I have been encouraged by a documentary series just released on the Stuff website titled This is How it Ends.

If you are still unconvinced about the fragility of our environment I encourage you to watch these
episodes about NZ’s unique biodiversity and how it is under threat. (Just click on the image above).

“We are at crisis point. Unfortunately, the way we feed and fuel our 21st Century lifestyle is unsustainable. We have fundamentally changed the planet. And it’s completely getting out of balance.” 

Livia Esterhazy, WWF-NZ

Getting out of balance? No! Things are already WAY out of balance.

You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone…

But how can we appreciate something we don’t know exists? How can we PROTECT a species if we don’t know it exists?

Here are four endemic New Zealand butterflies, clockwise from top left, the forest ringlet
(photo thanks Norm Twigge), Kahukura or red admiral (Chris Rickards), the glade copper
and lastly the common copper (Martin Gascoigne-Pees). How many did you recognise?

So much needs to be done for our butterflies and moths. (Of course, there’s so much that needs to be done for our environment… but we can only do so much.)

Help us help them, please!

If you’re a butterfly lover, here’s a good place to start. The vision of the MBNZT is to ensure that Aotearoa New Zealand’s ecosystems support thriving moth and butterfly populations. Please join us if you can. Financial members help us by funding our projects (and they receive our magazine four times a year.) If you can’t afford to become a financial supporter sign up for our free e-news to receive tips that will help you make your own garden more butterfly-friendly. Other ways you can help us are to follow our blog and other social media channels.

We know you’ll enjoy the journey and be able to implement small steps in your lives which will change the future of Aotearoa New Zealand.

And I want to thank you for reading this far. I warned you it was a long one, didn’t I?

Future posts will be much shorter, I promise!

Jacqui Knight, Founding Trustee

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