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Who We Are

Why does the Moths and Butterflies of New Zealand Trust exist?

Since its inception in 2005, this not-for-profit organisation has been engaging with New Zealanders to ensure our biodiversity promotes a thriving moth and butterfly population. The trust was incorporated under the Charitable Trusts Act 1957 as a registered charitable trust, No. 1679763, with donee status (CC11297).

Our vision: to ensure that Aotearoa New Zealand's ecosystems support thriving moth and butterfly populations.

Not enough is known about our NZ butterflies and moths. Most conservation efforts have focused on our birds and trees. Insects are the poorer cousins. And yet of all the insects, butterflies, with their colourful wings, inspire interest and respect. An understanding of and love for butterflies and moths can lead to reverence for all nature because butterflies rely so much on other aspects of the environment such as plants and flowers.

It is estimated that there are over 2,000 species of NZ butterflies and moths – mostly moths. More than 90% are found nowhere else – this is the highest proportion of unique butterflies and moths in the world. Another 68 species have been introduced since European settlement.

Of the butterflies, the red admiral, (Vanessa gonerilla gonerilla) was once found in most parts of NZ but has now retreated from many urban areas with gardens being ‘tidied’ and nectar-filled flowers disappearing with a change in lifestyle trends and gardening fashions. This butterfly, known to Maori as kahukura (red cloak) is only found in NZ – and according to one international lepidopterist, is the finest red admiral of them all.

The forest ringlet is another classic example of something unique to this country and very special. Dodonidia helmsii is only found in NZ and indeed is the only butterfly in its genus worldwide. Once it was common in backyards and forested parks in the Auckland and Wellington regions, but now it is disappearing from urban areas. And no-one knows why. The Trust would like to see action taken to ensure this species is not lost altogether.

Another example is a tiny purple butterfly, part of the Lycaena family, which has been found only in one coastal carpark in the South Island. This butterfly is teetering on the brink of extinction and research needs to be undertaken to ensure its survival. Our butterflies are now heavily dependent on human respect and action to survive and thrive. And we know so little about them…

What a tragedy it would be if we were to lose it altogether! Our members are working hard to ensure people know of the admiral's existence and plant host plants to ensure its survival.

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