Butterfly Conservation Initiative

The Butterfly Conservation Initiative was formed in 2001 by members of the AZA (Association of Zoos and Aquariums.) The formation of the BFCI represents a synchronization of many habitat and wildlife conservation efforts that had been underway for years in various institutions and organizations.

The AZA recognized an opportunity to get smaller zoos and aquariums involved in conservation efforts, while demonstrating a commitment to conserving wildlife in their own backyards. During the two years that followed, the BFCI blossomed into a thriving, diverse coalition of institutions, including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Wildlife Federation, the Xerces Society, and more than 35 zoos and aquariums. Its initial goal was to support the recovery of the 23 federally listed endangered butterfly species in the U.S. And while it remains committed to that goal, its mission has expanded to include habitat restoration efforts, community involvement programs, butterfly research, as well as education and outreach programs. Butterflies, like so many other animals, are threatened worldwide by loss of habitat due to urban sprawl, the overuse of pesticides, and the introduction of exotic plant species.

The Oakland Zoo, a founding member of the BFCI, has contributed to its success in a number of ways, most notably with the debut of its Barbara Robbins Memorial Butterfly Garden in May 2003. This onsite butterfly habitat, maintained in large part by teens and volunteers, showcases Bay Area butterflies and emphasizes the critical role of pollinators in the local ecosystem. Oakland Zoo's Conservation and Education department has also had great success in offering family butterfly gardening classes, giving the public a fun and rewarding way to participate in the conservation of local butterfly species.

Of the 23 butterfly species that are endangered in the United States, several may be found right here in the Bay Area. For instance, the Bay Checkerspot Butterfly, a member of the brush-footed butterfly family, was once so abundant in the Bay Area that it was used as a model for new population ecology formulas. Sadly, its numbers have dropped dramatically as the local human population has ballooned. Every butterfly species requires a specific plant as a food source for its larvae, and in the case of the Bay Checkerspot, it is the dwarf plantain. As this plant has become threatened by the introduction of non-native grasses, so too has the butterfly become endangered. By educating the public about butterfly gardening, and encouraging the planting of native Bay Area plants, we can turn the tide for precious wildlife like the Bay Checkerspot.

For more information visit www.butterflyrecovery.org.

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