Currently, conservation organizations across North America, including accredited zoos and aquariums, are engaged in the captive rearing and reintroduction of endangered butterflies, protection of endangered butterfly habitat, and are conducting research about their unique habitat needs. However these efforts have not been focused on all species evenly. Recovery plans exist for fewer then half of the listed endangered and threatened butterfly species in the US!

Species that are candidates for Endangered Species Act (ESA) protection or are Natural Heritage Program G1/G2 ranked species often receive even less attention than listed species. The BFCI's conservation and recovery goals are to: (1) identify priority needs for all butterfly species; (2) identify how our members' strengths can best be used to address these needs; and (3) move forward towards population recovery and stabilization.

Zoo Teen Program at the Toledo Zoo

The Kitty Todd Nature Preserve is managed by the Nature Conservancy and is the only site in Ohio where endangered Karner blue butterflies can be found. Karner blue butterflies were extinct in Ohio but have been reintroduced through collaborative effort by the Toledo Zoo, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the Ohio and Michigan Departments of Natural Resources, and the Nature Conservancy.

Teens at the Toledo Zoo are an exceptional group. Not only are they active volunteers throughout the zoo, they have also dedicated time and energy to restoring butterfly habitat at the Kitty Todd Nature Preserve in Ohio and have produced a short and impressive video clip (5.7MB Quicktime) about their work.

Bringing Back the Karner Blue Butterfly

The National Wildlife Federation (a BFCI partner) teams up with Concord, NH schoolchildren and the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department to raise and plant lupine in a Karner blue butterfly habitat restoration project. In 2004, wild Karner blue butterflies were seen at the restored habitat for the first time in three years.

Bringing Back the Miami Blue Butterfly

The Miami blue butterfly was thought to be extinct after Hurricane Andrew swept through Florida in 1992. However, a small population was found in 1999 and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission issued an emergency endangered-species protection order on its behalf in 2002. In early 2003, researchers at the McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity at the University of Florida, a BFCI partner, began to successfully rear the Miami blue in captivity, with the objective of increasing population numbers and releasing them back into the wild.

Miami Blue Butterfly by Jaret Daniels

Photo by: Jaret C. Daniels, Ph.D.

The releases and reintroductions have begun. In late May 2004, scientists from the McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity released 500 Miami blue caterpillars at two national parks to supplement a wild population that was limited to about 50 adults in 2003. There are plans to release additional caterpillars at another ten, or possibly more, sites in the butterfly's historic range. Scientists monitor the caterpillars' progress and will continue efforts to support the Miami blue butterfly, with the goal of establishing stable populations at the release sites.

Partnerships for California Butterfly Recovery

This March 2004 meeting brought together 19 people from five AZA-accredited zoos, three nonprofit organizations, three US Fish and Wildlife offices, and one university to discuss ways to support the recovery of butterflies in California. Fifteen of the twenty-two federally listed butterfly species are found in California and BFCI members are ready to get involved with efforts to support population recovery. The meeting — which was organized by BFCI and hosted by the Santa Barbara Zoo — accomplished the following:

  • Updated new and key players on the progress of ongoing butterfly recovery projects, while providing general information about California butterflies.
  • Introduced government partners to non-traditional partners, specifically local zoo and aquariums but also other local nonprofit organizations.
  • Developed a "Menu of Opportunities" that identified activities that zoos and aquariums could implement that would support butterfly conservation and recovery.
  • Read a report about the meeting (127KB pdf).

Northwest Butterfly Conservation and Recovery Workshop

Hosted by Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium with support from the Woodland Park Zoo, this December 2003 workshop:

  • Imparted essential information about threatened Pacific Northwest butterflies to new and key players in the recovery effort.
  • Shared progress on ongoing butterfly recovery projects.
  • Introduced government and academic scientists to non-traditional partners, particularly zoos and aquariums.
  • Identified ways participants could pool their various talents/resources to help butterfly populations while increasing public awareness and involvement in local and regional butterfly conservation efforts.
  • Participants are developing a follow-up meeting focused on education.
  • Read a Communiqué article about the meeting (127KB pdf).

Creating Butterfly Habitat at the Wilds

Wilds PrairieSix AZA-accredited BFCI members in Ohio, the Akron Zoological Park, Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden, Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, the Toledo Zoo, and the Wilds , collaborated to restore butterfly habitat in southeastern Ohio. With funds from the George Gund Foundation, more than ten acres of meadows, forests, and wetlands were restored, managed, and monitored for native butterflies.

The habitat opened to the public in May 2005, although schools started visiting the area even earlier to learn about insects, ecology, and restoration. Volunteers are encouraged to contact the Wilds to assist with restoration and overall improvements. Please see the following updates to learn more about the restoration process, the plants used, and the butterflies that have already made the Wilds their home.

Karner Blue Butterfly Recovery Implementation Workshop

The June 2002 meeting brought together 67 participants from 14 states and two Canadian provinces. Twenty AZA-member institutions were represented as were federal and state wildlife biologists, state wildlife agencies, the Nature Conservancy, nature museums, private landowners, and university scientists. Together they:

  • Identified the information that needed to be included in state recovery implementation strategies that would complement the US Fish & Wildlife Service Karner blue recovery plan.
  • Developed nontraditional partnerships and relationships at the state level.
  • Identified each state's specific programmatic needs.
  • Developed state working groups that began discussions for the development of state recovery implementation strategies and set timelines for their reports.
  • Read the meeting report (67KB pdf).

Butterfly Recovery at the Oregon Zoo

The Oregon Zoo has been a leader in recovery efforts on behalf of the Fender's blue, Puget blue, and Oregon silverspot butterflies and received funds from AZA‚??s Conservation Endowment Fund in 2001 and 2003 for this work. The Oregon Zoo also is partnering with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to raise two federal candidate species in captivity; the Taylor's checkerspot (Euphydryas editha taylori) and the Mardon skipper (Polites mardon)

Butterfly Resources

Learn about basic butterfly biology, butterflies in your area, butterfly gardening, and more.

Species Profiles

BFCI's species profiles — for endangered, threatened, and vulnerable butterfly species in the U.S. — comprise a single-source summary of recovery needs for North America's most imperiled butterflies.