Hurricanes, Drought, Nearly Drove Florida Butterfly To Extinction

By: Associated Press Email
By: Associated Press Email

Associated Press Release

MIAMI (AP) -- University of Florida scientists are hoping they have a second chance to save a rare Florida Keys butterfly.

Federal wildlife authorities issued an emergency order last year authorizing the capture of up to four female Schaus swallowtail butterflies to jumpstart a captive breeding program in Gainesville.

It took until last month for researchers to find one.

The Schaus swallowtail's population has dropped over the past few decades from the hundreds to just four confirmed sightings last year.

A breeding program at the University of Florida that began just before Hurricane Andrew swept away the butterfly's habitat is credited with saving the species once before. Its population dropped again after a series of droughts.

The large, pale yellow butterfly now is found only in northern Key Largo and Biscayne National Park.

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