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The Butterfly Discovery Project

Lycaena boldenarum
L boldenarum, photo by Angela Moon-Jones

In May 2023 we took part in #GenerosityGenerator2023. 
See our YouTube video

Many NZ butterflies exist nowhere else in the world and yet they have still not been accurately identified. If they become extinct, we will never be able to re-introduce them. That’s prompted the MBNZT to undertake a DNA science research journey to reliably discover each individual species.

Most people seem to think there are only two butterflies in NZ: the monarch and the cabbage white… but that’s not so. There could be more than 50 species. Some are already on the endangered list. The Butterfly Discovery Project  will start by investigating NZ’s largest group of butterflies, the copper butterflies (Lycaena species). Currently four species have been identified, when in fact there could be more than 20!

The three photographs top right are all classified as L. salustius or common copper - but notice how different they are.

Sadly, the scientific funding model in NZ does not support this type of work so we must raise money through crowd funding, just to be able to identify and name our important fauna. We are fortunate that Dr George Gibbs has pledged a donation of $50,000 as seed money in memory of his renowned entomologist grandfather GV Hudson.

You can help us to continue our important work to identify them and understand their habitats so that we can save our butterflies from extinction through better conservation. The more we know about these butterflies through scientific research, the easier it will be to protect them.

So far we have raised over $18,000 through crowd funding and if you also wish to help please scroll down and click on the Donate to this project button at the bottom of the page.

You can also help by telling your friends and family and sharing about the project through our Facebook page. Spread the word to help your local copper butterflies become discovered, so that they too can be included in NZ’s conservation strategy before they become extinct.

Taxonomy is a very important and critical science: discovering, classifying and naming organisms so that we can better understand them and restore their habitats. Sir David Attenborough knows it, and as Ruud Kleinpaste says, “if we can’t identify them, how can we save them from extinction?”

Every New Zealander has the right to know how special our species are… and we want to engage the right PhD student to do the research, using DNA and other scientific techniques, to identify them accurately.

Poster PhD Research Student Needed

Should you be interested, please email

More information:

L salustius at Rees Valley by Angela Moon-Jones
L salustius at Chrystals Beach by Angela Moon-Jones
L salustius at Chrystals Beach by Rob Jones

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