News Release
Southeast Region


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Emergency Action Underway to Protect Endangered Schaus Swallowtail Butterfly; Telephonic Media Availability Set for 3pm Today

June 13, 2012


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A dusky gopher frog sitting in brown grass

Female Schaus swallowtail butterfly. Photo used with permission of: Jaret C. Daniels, Ph.D, Florida Museum of Natural History. Download.

BISCAYNE NATIONAL PARK, Fla. -- The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has issued an emergency authorization for the collection and captive rearing of Schaus swallowtail butterflies in an effort to save the “endangered” species from extinction.

As a result of that authorization on June 8 -- within two days after surveyors observed only three to five Schaus swallowtail butterflies at Biscayne National Park during their current flight season -- the USFWS, National Park Service, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the University of Florida initiated an on-going emergency action to collect up to four female Schaus Swallowtail butterflies within BNP.  The surveys are continuing.

Biological technicians count the endangered butterfly at Biscayne National Park near Miami each year and this year’s tally plummeted to five from 41 in 2011. “We’ve only confirmed three of the five butterflies sighted this year and only one of those counted this year was a female,” said Dr. Jaret Daniels, lead project researcher for the University of Florida.

The emergency authorization allows the University of Florida crew to capture up to four female butterflies and begin a propagation project to repopulate the species in Biscayne National Park.

Daniels said, “Intervention doesn’t guarantee survival, but it does offer hope and puts us into a better position to save this species.”

Once collected, females will be temporarily confined in a mesh cage on site in natural habitat, where they will hopefully lay eggs on host plants.  New eggs will be removed daily.  Females will only be confined for up to four days and then released.

“National Parks like Biscayne protect entire ecosystems for the benefit of all species,” said Mark Lewis, Biscayne National Park Superintendent. “Right now, with our partners in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission and the University of Florida, we must focus on a fragile but important part of the ecosystem -- the Schaus swallowtail -- to ensure it doesn’t disappear from the planet.”

As pollinators, butterflies are important members of south Florida ecosystem. They’re also good indicators of the ecological quality of a habitat, as they are important components of the food chain, particularly as larvae (caterpillars).

The Schaus swallowtail was initially listed under the Endangered Species Act as “Threatened” in 1976 and then  “Endangered” in 1984.  During the 2011 survey, there were 41 total -- 35 in BNP (mostly on Elliott Key) and six on north Key Largo.  Recovery of the Schaus swallowtail is hindered by insecticide use, habitat destruction, droughts, hurricanes and illegal collection.

“We’re encouraging concerned citizens to help us save this species by submitting new scientific and commercial information and data related to the status of the Schaus swallowtail butterfly throughout its range in south Florida,” said Larry Williams, Field Supervisor of the South Florida Ecological Services Office.   

About  the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service:  The USFWS works with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people.  For more information, visit . Connect with our Facebook page at , follow our tweets at , watch our YouTube Channel at  and download photos from our Flickr page at    

About the National Park Service:  More than 20,000 National Park Service employees care for America’s 397 national parks and work with communities across the nation to help preserve local history and create close-to-home recreational opportunities. Learn more at . Learn more about Biscayne National Park at

Editor’s Note:  Subject matter experts from the partner agencies will be available to answer questions from news media representatives via a teleconference set for Wednesday, June 13 at 3 p.m. (EDT).    To participate in the teleconference call 888-790-3325 and use the participant passcode: BUTTERFLY

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals, and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit Connect with our Facebook page at, follow our tweets at, watch our YouTube Channel at and download photos from our Flickr page at


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Last updated: June 13, 2012