Journal of Insect Conservation

, Volume 14, Issue 5, pp 535–554 | Cite as

Conservation status and management of the Gove Crow Euploea alcathoe enastri (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae), a threatened tropical butterfly from the indigenous Aboriginal lands of north-eastern Arnhem Land, Australia

Original Paper


The Gove Crow butterfly, Euploea alcathoe enastri Fenner, 1991, is restricted to Gove Peninsula of north-eastern Arnhem Land, a remote area of northern Australia. The subspecies has been listed as an Endangered taxon under federal and Northern Territory legislation, and represents one of only a few cases in the Australian Region in which a tropical butterfly has been targeted for species-orientated conservation. However, accurate status evaluation and conservation management have been hampered by lack of detailed information on spatial distribution, critical habitat, and the extent and severity of threatening processes. Surveys carried out during 2006–2008 indicate that the subspecies has a limited geographical range (extent of occurrence approximately 6,700 km2) within which it is recorded from 11 locations or subpopulations embracing a total of 21 sites. Most sites comprise discrete habitat patches that are relatively small in area (<10 ha) within which adults are localised and occur in low abundance (<15 h−1). Of the four major habitat types in which E. alcathoe enastri was detected, only mixed paperbark tall open forest with rainforest elements in the understorey and rainforest edge (i.e. the ecotone between evergreen monsoon vine-forest and eucalypt/paperbark woodland) comprise breeding habitats. These habitat patches were always associated with permanent creeks or perennial groundwater seepages or springs that form swamplands, usually along drainage lines or flood plains in coastal or near coastal lowland areas. Major threats identified at the site level are habitat modification through altered fire regime and habitat disturbance by feral animals (buffalo, pig); potential threats at the landscape level include habitat loss through invasive species (grassy weeds, tramp ants) and global climate change. However, since critical breeding areas are subject to natural disturbance by both fire and flood, and occasionally cyclonic events, an optimal balance in disturbance regime is probably required to sustain breeding populations. Although E. alcathoe enastri is a narrow-range endemic that is ecologically specialised, there is no evidence of decline. Accordingly, the conservation status of the subspecies should be regarded as Near Threatened (‘Conservation Dependent’) under IUCN criteria. Components for an effective long-term conservation management plan of the butterfly and its habitat, which largely depend on the cooperation of traditional landowners and involvement of local indigenous ranger groups, are briefly discussed.


Butterfly conservation Endangered species Narrow-range endemism Species-orientated conservation Status evaluation Threatening processes 


  1. Ackery PA, Vane-Wright RI (1984) Milkweed butterflies: their cladistics and biology. British Museum (Natural History), LondonGoogle Scholar
  2. Banfai DS, Bowman DMJS (2006) Forty years of lowland monsoon forest expansion in Kakadu National Park, Northern Australia. Biol Conserv 131:553–565CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Banfai DS, Bowman DMJS (2007) Drivers of rain-forest boundary dynamics in Kakadu National Park, northern Australia: a field assessment. J Trop Ecol 23:73–86CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Braby MF (2000) Butterflies of Australia: their identification, biology and distribution. CSIRO Publishing, MelbourneGoogle Scholar
  5. Braby MF (2006) National Recovery Plan for the Gove Crow Butterfly, Euploea alcathoe enastri. A report prepared for the Australian Commonwealth Department of the Environment and Heritage. Department of Natural Resources, Environment and the Arts, DarwinGoogle Scholar
  6. Braby MF (2007) Collecting biological specimens in the Northern Territory with particular reference to terrestrial invertebrates: guidelines to current legislation and permits. North Territory Nat 19:35–45Google Scholar
  7. Braby MF (2008) Biogeography of butterflies in the Australian monsoon tropics. Aust J Zool 56:41–56CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Braby MF (2009) The life history and biology of Euploea alcathoe enastri Fenner, 1991 (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae) from northeastern Arnhem Land, Northern Territory, Australia. Aust Entomol 36:51–62Google Scholar
  9. Braby MF, Douglas F (2004) The taxonomy, ecology and conservation status of the Golden-rayed Blue, a threatened butterfly endemic to western Victoria, Australia. Biol J Linn Soc 81:275–299CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Braby MF, Douglas F (2008) The nomenclature, taxonomy and conservation status of Ogyris waterhouseri (Bethune-Baker, 1905) stat. nov. (Lepidoptera: Lycaenidae), a threatened butterfly from southern Australia. Aust J Entomol 47:315–329CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Braithwaite RW, Dudzinski ML, Ridpath MG, Parker BS (1984) The impact of water buffalo on the monsoon forest ecosystem in Kakadu National Park. Aust J Ecol 9:309–322CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. D’Antonio CM, Vitousek PM (1992) Biological invasions by exotic grasses, the grass/fire cycle, and global change. Annu Rev Ecol Syst 23:63–87Google Scholar
  13. Dunn KL, Kitching RL, Dexter EM (1994) The conservation status of Australian Butterflies. Unpublished report to Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service, CanberraGoogle Scholar
  14. Eastwood RG, Braby MF, Schmidt D, Hughes JM (2008) Taxonomy, ecology, genetics and conservation status of the pale imperial hairstreak (Jalmenus eubulus) (Lepidoptera: Lycaenidae), a threatened butterfly from the Brigalow Belt, Australia. Invertebr Syst 22:407–423CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Fenner TL (1991) A new subspecies of Euploea alcathoe (Godart) (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae) from the Northern Territory, Australia. Aust Entomol Mag 18:149–155Google Scholar
  16. Fenner TL (1992) Correction and addendum. Aust Entomol Mag 19:93Google Scholar
  17. Franklin DC, Brocklehurst PS, Lynch D, Bowman DMJS (2007) Niche differentiation and regeneration in the seasonally flooded Melaleuca forests of northern Australia. J Trop Ecol 23:457–467CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Hennessy KJ (2004) Climate change in the Northern Territory: consultancy report for the Northern Territory Department of Infrastructure, Planning and Environment. CSIRO, Division of Atmospheric Research, Climate Impact Group, Aspendale, VictoriaGoogle Scholar
  19. Hoffman BD (2004) Pest ants and their management on Aboriginal lands in the Northern Territory. A consultancy report prepared for the Northern Land Council. CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems, DarwinGoogle Scholar
  20. IUCN (2001) IUCN red list categories: version 3.1. IUCN Species Survival Commission, GlandGoogle Scholar
  21. Kean L, Price O (2003) The extent of Mission grasses and Gamba Grass in the Darwin region of Australia’s Northern Territory. Pac Conserv Biol 8:281–290Google Scholar
  22. Lambkin TA (2001) The life history of Euploea alcathoe monilifera (Moore) and its relationship to E. a. eichhorni Staudinger (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae: Danainae). Aust Entomol 28:129–136Google Scholar
  23. Lewis OT, Basset Y (2007) Insect conservation in tropical forests. In: Stewart AJA, New TR, Lewis OT (eds) Insect conservation biology. Proceedings of the royal entomological society’s 23rd symposium. CABI, Wallingford, pp 34–56Google Scholar
  24. Liddle DT, Russell-Smith J, Brock J, Leach GJ, Connors GT (1994) Atlas of the vascular rainforest plants of the northern territory. Australian Biological Resources Study, CanberraGoogle Scholar
  25. New TR (1991) Butterfly conservation. Oxford University Press, MelbourneGoogle Scholar
  26. New TR (1992) Conservation of butterflies in Australia. J Res Lepid 29:237–253Google Scholar
  27. New TR (1995) Butterfly conservation in Australasia—an emerging awareness and an increasing need. In: Pullin AS (ed) Ecology and conservation of butterflies. Chapman & Hall, London, pp 304–315Google Scholar
  28. New TR (1996) Evaluating the status of butterflies for conservation. In: Ae SA, Hirowatari T, Ishii M, Brower LP (eds) Decline and conservation of butterflies in Japan III. Lepidopterological Society of Japan, Osaka, pp 4–21Google Scholar
  29. New TR (1997) Are lepidoptera an effective ‘umbrella group’ for biodiversity conservation? J Insect Conserv 1:5–12CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. New TR (2008) Conserving narrow range endemic insects in the face of climate change: options for some Australian butterflies. J Insect Conserv 12:585–589CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. New TR, Sands DPA (1996) Progress in butterfly conservation in Australia. In: Ae SA, Hirowatari T, Ishii M, Brower LP (eds) Decline and conservation of butterflies in Japan III. Lepidopterological Society of Japan, Osaka, pp 116–127Google Scholar
  32. New TR, Sands DPA (2002) Narrow-range endemicity and conservation status: interpretations for Australian butterflies. Invertebr Syst 16:665–670CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. New TR, Sands DPA (2003) The listing and de-listing of invertebrate species for conservation in Australia. J Insect Conserv 7:199–205CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. New TR, Sands DPA (2004) Management of threatened insect species in Australia, with particular reference to butterflies. Aust J Entomol 43:258–270CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. New TR, Yen AL (1995) Species management and recovery plans for butterflies (Insecta: Lepidoptera) in Australia. In: Bennett A, Backhouse G, Clark T (eds) People and nature conservation. Transactions of the Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales, Sydney, pp 15–21Google Scholar
  36. New TR, Pyle RM, Thomas JA, Thomas CD, Hammond PC (1995) Butterfly conservation management. Annu Rev Entomol 40:57–83CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. New TR, Field RP, Sands DPA (2007) Victoria’s butterflies in a national conservation context. Vic Nat 124:243–249Google Scholar
  38. Panton WJ (1993) Changes in post World War 2 distribution and status of monsoon rainforests in the Darwin area. Aust Geogr 24:50–59CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Parsons MJ (1984) The biology and conservation of Ornithoptera alexandrae. In: Ackery PA, Vane-Wright RI (eds) The biology of butterflies. Symposium of the royal entomological society of London, number 11. Academic Press, London, pp 327–331Google Scholar
  40. Parsons MJ (1992a) The butterfly farming and trading industry in the Indo-Australian region and its role in tropical forest conservation. Trop Lepid 3(suppl 1):1–31Google Scholar
  41. Parsons MJ (1992b) The world’s largest butterfly endangered: the ecology, status and conservation of Ornithoptera alexandrae (Lepidoptera: Papilionidae). Trop Lepid 3(suppl 1):33–60Google Scholar
  42. Rossiter NA, Setterfield AA, Douglas MM, Hutley LB (2003) Testing the grass-fire cycle: alien grass invasion in the tropical savannas of northern Australia. Divers Distrib 9:169–176CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Russell-Smith J (1991) Classification, species richness, and environmental relations of monsoon rain forest in northern Australia. J Veg Sci 2:259–278CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Russell-Smith J, Bowman DMJS (1992) Conservation of monsoonal vine-forest isolates in the Northern Territory, Australia. Biol Conserv 59:51–63CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Samways MJ (2005) Insect diversity conservation. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Sands DPA (1999) Conservation status of Lepidoptera: assessment, threatening processes and recovery actions. In: Ponder W, Lunney D (eds) The other 99%. The conservation and biodiversity of invertebrates. Transactions of the Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales, Mosman, pp 382–387Google Scholar
  47. Sands DPA, New TR (2002) The action plan for Australian butterflies. Environment Australia, CanberraGoogle Scholar
  48. Skeat AJ, East TJ, Corbett LK (1996) Impact of feral water buffalo. In: Finlayson CM, von Oertzen I (eds) Landscape and vegetation ecology of the Kakadu region, northern Australia. Kluwer Academic Publishers, Netherlands, pp 155–177Google Scholar
  49. Standards and Petitions Working Group (2006) Guidelines for using the IUCN red list categories and criteria: version 6.1. IUCN Species Survival Commission, GlandGoogle Scholar
  50. Warren MS, Bourn N, Brereton T, Fox R, Middlebrook I, Parsons MS (2007) What have red lists done for us? The values and limitations of protected species listing for invertebrates. In: Stewart AJA, New TR, Lewis OT (eds) Insect conservation biology. Proceedings of the royal entomological society’s 23 symposium. CABI, Wallingford, pp 76–91Google Scholar
  51. Wilson C (2003) Carn the crows! Working with an Aboriginal community to protect an endangered butterfly. 34th Australian entomological society and 6th invertebrate biodiversity and conservation combined conference, HobartGoogle Scholar
  52. Wilson BA, Brocklehurst PS, Clark MJ, Dickinson KJM (1990) Vegetation survey of the northern Territory. Technical report number 49. Land Conservation Unit, Conservation Commission of the Northern Territory, PalmerstonGoogle Scholar
  53. Woinarski JCZ, Mackey B, Nix HA, Traill B (2007) The nature of northern Australia: its natural values, ecological processes and future prospects. ANU E Press, CanberraGoogle Scholar
  54. Yen AL, Butcher RJ (1997) An overview of the conservation of non-marine invertebrates in Australia. Environment Australia, CanberraGoogle Scholar
  55. Young GR, Bellis GA, Brown GR, Smith ESC (2001) The crazy ant Anoplolepis gracilipes (Smith) (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) in east Arnhem Land, Australia. Aust Entomol 28:97–104Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Biodiversity Conservation, Department of Natural Resources, Environment, The Arts and SportPalmerstonAustralia
  2. 2.Research School of BiologyThe Australian National UniversityCanberraAustralia
  3. 3.Museum and Art Gallery Northern TerritoryDarwinAustralia

Personalised recommendations