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Original Research

Monitoring of the eggs of the Karkloof blue butterfly, Orachrysops ariadne, for its conservation management

Adrian J. Armstrong, Sharon L. Louw

Koedoe; Vol 55, No 1 (2013), 11 pages. doi: 10.4102/koedoe.v55i1.1150

Submitted: 05 March 2013
Published:  10 October 2013

Abstract

The Endangered Orachrysops ariadne (Butler 1898) (Karkloof blue butterfly) is endemic to the Endangered Moist Midlands Grassland in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, and is extant at four sites. The results from the monitoring of the eggs laid by O. ariadne in a grassland area that is frequently burnt by poor rural people to ensure that palatable grass is available to their livestock, suggested the implementation of management interventions (fencing and firebreak burning) to prevent the local extinction of the butterfly. The number of eggs at the monitoring site declined dramatically between 2002 and 2003 and fluctuated after the management interventions were initiated properly in 2008, but had nearly reached the target number of 250 by 2013. An index count method for the monitoring of O. ariadne eggs at the other three known colonies, where plant invasion rather than uncontrolled burning is a major threat, was developed and shown to be efficient with regard to time relative to the number of eggs sampled. The host ant Camponotus natalensis (F. Smith 1858) (Natal sugar ant) was found to be present in all the host-plant patches at one colony site, indicating that all host-plant patches are likely to be breeding areas for the butterfly. Invasive plant control at and appropriate burning of the habitat of O. ariadne should assist in ensuring the survival of these colonies.

Conservation implications: Adaptive monitoring and management of threatened endemic invertebrates and their habitats may be crucial for their continued survival. The development of efficient methods for the monitoring of such species is required where resources are limited, as threats to the species may cause sudden and irreversible declines in population size.


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Author affiliations

Adrian J. Armstrong, Biodiversity Research & Assessment Division, Ezemvelo KwaZulu-Natal Wildlife, South Africa
Sharon L. Louw, Ecological Advice, Ezemvelo KwaZulu-Natal Wildlife, South Africa

Keywords

Endemic butterfly species; threats; monitoring methods; habitat management; socio-economic context; community involvement

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ISSN: 0075-6458 (print) | ISSN: 2071-0771 (online)

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