Green Cairns Birdwing by Christopher Marley

Green Cairns Birdwing

New Guinea

The Birdwing butterfly family is an object lesson in conservation through sustained commercial use.  When scientists discovered that the Queen Alexandra's Birdwing -the largest butterfly in the world - was nearing extinction due to habitat destruction, it began employing natives in the area to re-plant the Birdwing's needed host plant.  Meanwhile, local villagers who hitherto had been forced to clear the endangered Birdwing's habits to farm were allowed to collect all unprotected species of insects to sell commercially through a government agency.  With the many diverse insect species in that area, there was no shortage of enthusiastic buyers.  Consequently, many natives replaced an environmentally devastating career with a benign one while bringing the world's largest butterfly back from the brink of extinction.  As a precaution, all birdwing butterfly species are still protected and require internationally monitored permits, but the species that are offered are not endangered or threatened.