Rarer than a Panda - Researchers Working to Save Endangered Butterfly in Southeastern Manitoba

Less than 200 Poweshiek skipperling butterflies remain in Canada

Professional photos and b-roll of researchers and Poweshiek skipperling butterfly available.

WINNIPEG, July 15, 2013 /CNW/ - Researchers from both Canada and the United States are rushing to figure out why a small, brown and orange winged butterfly no bigger than a toonie is dying off quickly.

Listed as an endangered species in Manitoba in 2012 and listed nationally as threatened, the Poweshiek skipperling butterfly population has dropped dramatically throughout North America. In Canada, It is known to only inhabit 17 fields in southeastern Manitoba, primarily on the Nature Conservancy of Canada's Tall Grass Prairie Natural Area. In the United States, the closest population appears only in a handful of sites in Iowa and North Dakota.

Researchers from the University of Winnipeg, Minnesota Zoo and University of Michigan are now just outside of Winnipeg performing valuable research on this declining species. Since the adult butterfly is active for only two to three weeks, researchers are using this critical time to collect information on the Poweshiek skipperling's genetics and genetic diversity to save this important critter from extinction.


"While many people think of the panda as an endangered species, the Poweshiek skipperling is rarer and right here in our backyards," said Cary Hamel, conservation science manager with the Nature Conservancy of Canada in Manitoba. "If we don't figure out why the population is declining so quickly and why the butterfly is dying off, we'll have lost another important species that used to live in the tall grass prairie. The cross-border collaboration with researchers will hopefully save this species from further decline or extinction."

"This endangered butterfly is facing the real and immediate threat of global extinction, not only in Manitoba but across its entire range," said Erik Runquist a Butterfly Conservation Biologist at the Minnesota Zoo. "No populations appear stable, so the Minnesota Zoo is partnering internationally to establish emergency conservation breeding populations at the Zoo to serve as an "insurance policy" against further future losses in the wild.  Butterflies are sensitive to environmental change and serve as "canary in the coalmine" indicators of prairie health.  Poweshiek skipperlings are not the only prairie butterfly in steep decline, and immediate action and cooperation is needed to secure their futures."

Learn More

The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) is the nation's leading land conservation organization, working to protect our most important natural areas and the species they sustain. Since 1962 NCC and its partners have helped to protect more than 2.6 million acres (more than 1 million hectares), coast to coast.

Visit: www.natureconservancy.ca
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For video footage of the Poweshiek skipperling and researchers, click here:

password: butterfly

SOURCE: Nature Conservancy of Canada

For further information:

Crystal Folkins
(647) 881-5375
(204) 942-6156
Nature Conservancy of Canada

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