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The taxonomy, biogeography and conservation of the myrmecophilous <i>Chrysoritis</i> butterflies (Lepidoptera: Lycaenidae) in South Africa

Author(s): R. F. Terblanche | H. Van Hamburg

Journal: Koedoe : African Protected Area Conservation and Science
ISSN 0075-6458

Volume: 46;
Issue: 2;
Start page: 65;
Date: 2003;
Original page

Keywords: Chrysoritis | myrmecophilous | endemic | conservation | research priorities

The relevance and integration of scientific knowledge to conservation management of the locally popular and highly endemic butterfly genus Chrysoritis are investigated within the research fields of taxonomy and biogeography. The butterfly genus Chrysoritis contains at least 41 species endemic to South Africa. The taxonomy of Chrysoritis has reached a state where revisions could easily result in a plethora of names between “lumping and splitting”. In practice, the state of the taxonomy of these butterflies on species level may alter their conservation priority. The two most species rich species groups in Chrysoritis have different centres of endemism, however, a butterfly atlas becomes a necessity to reveal more about their biogeography. There is an absence of butterfly species lists in many of our National Parks and Nature Reserves. Legislation should facilitate rather than limit the valuable role of the amateur lepidopterist to add distribution records. In turn, the amateur lepidopterists should adapt and make an effort to explore unknown localities, apart from monitoring butterflies at their well-known localities. The red listing of localised butterflies in South Africa, including a number of Chrysoritis species, is in need of an urgent review in the light of the most recent IUCN categories. A species such as Chrysoritis dicksoni should be protected by law - but at its known localities. The scenario that real conservation action is only needed if the last known locality of a butterfly is threatened, should be abolished. A paradigm shift to conserve the metapopulations of the highly endemic Chrysoritis genus and not merely a few of its species as items that appear on lists, seems necessary.
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