Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, July 26, 2023

Contact:

Dianne DuBois, (413) 530-9257, ddubois@biologicaldiversity.org

Three Brazilian Butterflies Proposed for U.S. Endangered Species Protection

Species Threatened by Habitat Loss, Overcollection

WASHINGTON— The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed protecting three Brazilian butterflies under the Endangered Species Act today. The proposed protections respond to a legal agreement stemming from a Center for Biological Diversity lawsuit filed in 2021.

All three butterflies face serious threats, including habitat destruction and collection for international trade.

“These stunning swallowtails need a lifeline after decades of nonstop threats to their existence,” said Dianne DuBois, a staff scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity. “We’re relieved the U.S. has finally proposed the highest level of Endangered Species Act protection for these three beleaguered species.”

In 1994 a biologist petitioned the Service to list seven butterflies, including these three species, under the Endangered Species Act. The Service determined that their listing might be warranted but, despite the swallowtails being highly imperiled, the species sat on the agency’s candidate waitlist for almost 30 years.

The settlement prompting today’s proposal set Endangered Species Act listing proposal deadlines for the Fluminense swallowtail, Harris’ mimic swallowtail, and five other foreign bird and butterfly species.

“Protections are always better late than never, but we’ve known humans have been threatening these butterflies’ survival for more than three decades,” said DuBois. “The United States must act faster to protect wildlife so we have a fighting chance of preserving the biodiversity we have left.”

Dozens of other foreign species currently await decisions by the Service. Despite 1 million species being on track for extinction in the current biodiversity crisis, the Fish and Wildlife Service has protected only one foreign species so far in 2023.

More than 600 foreign species are listed under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. The Act protects foreign endangered species by banning their import and sale, increasing awareness, and providing financial assistance.

Species Backgrounds

Harris’ mimic swallowtail: This mostly black butterfly has beautiful white and rose-red markings. It only inhabits Brazil’s coastal Atlantic forest region and is threatened by habitat destruction and collection for international trade. It is listed as critically endangered on the Brazilian National Red List.

Hahnel’s Amazonian swallowtail: This butterfly is restricted to just three areas of sandy riverbank along tributaries of the Amazon in central Brazil and is threatened by overcollection.

Fluminense swallowtail: This white-and-black butterfly with red accents is considered locally extinct in some areas and continues to decline, primarily due to development of its tiny swamp habitat near Rio de Janeiro. The species has also been found in the insect curio trade.

RSFluminense_swallowtail_Joe_Schelling_FPWC_1-scr
Fluminense swallowtail by Joe Schelling Image is available for media use.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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