THREATS TO THE BRENTON BLUE
(and other butterflies in the Knysna area)

The greatest threat to butterflies is loss of habitat, due to encroachment by diverse developments, such as housing and golf courses. As the human population continues to grow, more and more natural land is irreplaceably destroyed. All living creatures need space to survive - unless we commit to preserving space for them, many animals will disappear forever. This would be a tragic loss for future generations. Much of the development which threatens butterfly species today involves non-essential construction of luxury homes, hotels and golf courses. As the current guardians of biodiversity, we need to seriously consider whether such developments are really worth the permanent loss of species.

Orachrysops niobe (the Brenton Blue) -
Status: CRITICALLY ENDANGERED
Threats: The only known colony of the Brenton Blue is the Brenton Blue Butterfly Reserve, in Brenton-on-Sea, near Knysna in the Western Cape. Small populations, like this one, will always be at great risk of stochastic (chance) events, such as severe drought or an uncontrolled fire. The reserve needs to be carefully monitored and managed, so that the health and availability of the butterfly's food plant, Indigofera erecta, is sustained. In addition, viable colonies of the ant species, Camponotus baynei (see Natural History), to which the Brenton Blue's lifecycle is strongly linked, need to be present. These ant colonies may be threatened by invasive (alien) ant species or vegetation changes. Furthermore, small breeding populations of any species of animal are at risk of loss of genetic diversity, due to inbreeding effects. If any genetic deformities are present, these will persist in future generations and may lead to deterioration of the species.

OTHER BUTTERFLIES IN THE KNYSNA REGION

Thestor brachycerus brachycerus -
Status: CRITICALLY ENDANGERED
Threats: Strong colonies close to the Eastern Heads were destroyed by building activities, the most recent being lost in 1996. One of the colonies has been eliminated by the change to sheep farming in the early 2000s. Another was lost by the building of the access road to the Sparrebosch (now Pezula) Golf Estate in 1998. Another has been weakened by overgrazing with sheep, and was further threatened by the Fernwood development before the developers were persuaded to put aside an area for the butterfly, but it has not been seen for two years. A further colony was destroyed during the building of the golf course. Only a few colonies remain: one exists on Pezula and the owners of Pezula have undertaken not to disturb it. Fortunately, in December 2004, an additional, small colony was discovered during the scoping study for a development proposed in the south west corner of Pezula and there is hope that this one can be protected. The recent creation of the Knysna Coastal Conservancy by Pezula has improved the potential for saving this butterfly.

Aloeides thyra orientis -
Status: VULNERABLE
Threats: Encroachment of alien vegetation. Construction of houses or roads (presently unlikely, but may happen in the future).

Chrysoritis thysbe mithras -
Status: ENDANGERED
Threats: Encroachment of alien vegetation. The recent establishment of the Western Heads Conservancy holds promise for improved landscape management.