Conservation of Madeira’s Threatened Endemic Butterflies

For the purposes of Red Lists, Macaronesian Islands are considered part of Europe and, while they support relatively few species, several are endemics and among the most threatened butterflies on the continent. With this LIFE4BEST project, Butterfly Conservation Europe, in partnership with Madeira Flora and Fauna, has been targeting three highly threatened Madeiran endemics: the Endangered Madeiran Brimstone and Madeiran Speckled Wood, and the Critically Endangered Madeiran Large White.

Intensive surveys sampling the pristine laurel forests took place in 2021 using the ‘15-minute count’ method developed by eBMS, and drones were used for less accessible areas. While the Madeiran Speckled Wood was found in some abundance, in all instances so was the invasive Speckled Wood, which may be having a long-term impact on the former. The Madeiran Brimstone had a much more limited distribution, almost certainly because its larval host plant Rhamnus glanduolsa was also quite rare.

Sadly, not a single Madeiran Large White was seen and, since it was last recorded in 1986, must be presumed extinct – the first European butterfly in this unenviable category (Dr. Sam Ellis – Chair, Butterfly Conservation Europe, 22 April 2022). The project aims to establish a Madeira Butterfly Monitoring Scheme, run public outreach, volunteer training and educational programmes, and produce Species Action Plans, in the hope ambitious conservation programmes will be started to ensure these species are around for future generations.

Find more information here.

Madeiran Specked Wood (Photo: Sam Ellis)