Oxford University Comoro Islands butterfly survey 1992

Owen Lewis

This butterfly conservation project assessed the status, ecology and distribution of 50 butterfly taxa of Grand Comore in the western Indian Ocean. Five full species - including the threatened swallowtail (Papilo aristophontes) - and eight subspecies were endemic to the Comoros Islands. The developmental stages of P. aristophontes were photographed, and Toddalia asiatica was confirmed as a wild larval foodplant. Another threatened swallowtail (Graphium levassori) was not located. Butterfly distribution mapping work was carried out over 10 per cent of the island. Although overall species richness peaked in lowland open-country habitats, the endemic taxa were found to be (forest) habitat specialists to a greater degree and typically occurred at higher altitudes - particularly at the lower altitudinal limits of remaining lowland forests. They were presumed to have retreated upslope following deforestation of lower areas. Key sites to protect endemic species were identified. Data was passed on to the Centre Nationale de Documentation et Recherche Scientifique.

Project update: 22/3/97. During two months in the Comoro Islands, the team (1) determined the key habitat zones for endemic butterflies which are threatened by habitat change; (2) elucidated aspects of the ecology of the swallowtail butterfly (Papilio aristophontes); (3) mapped the distributions of all butterfly species encountered. The expedition raised awareness of conservation among staff of the CNDRS (O. Lewis in litt. 1993)