Taylor’s Checkerspot caterpillar.

Zoo joins conservation efforts for endangered butterflies

Greater Vancouver Zoo is part of the Taylor’s Checkerspot Butterfly Recovery Project and has agreed to take over captive breeding operations

Spring is definitely in the air and what do you think of when spring arrives? Most people think of warmer weather, trees and flowers blooming, birds chirping, and yes, butterflies too!

Unfortunately, not all butterflies are as common as they used to be. Taylor’s Checkerspot butterfly (TCB) used to be quite common in Garry Oak, Comox Valley and Hornby Island in British Columbia, down to the Willamette Valley in Oregon.

Taylor’s Checkerspot butterfly is an endangered species in Canada.

These eye-catching little orange and black butterflies have disappeared from all but 15 locations in the world. Currently, the only known breeding sites for Taylor’s Checkerspot butterflies in Canada are on Denman Island near Comox, and even that population has dwindled in recent years.

The Greater Vancouver Zoo is part of the Taylor’s Checkerspot Butterfly Recovery Project and has agreed to take over the captive breeding operations, previously run by Peter Karsten at his private facility on Denman.

Since the fall the zoo in Aldergrove has established some food and plant gardens, and are currently getting the conservation area ready for the arrival of the butterfly larvae in early April.

A conservation intern has also been hired to assist with the conservation project and will be focused on the butterflies all throughout the summer.

The Taylor’s Checkerspot Butterfly Recovery Project has been ongoing for more than ten years and more recently the captive rearing component has started with help from local volunteers, seasonal staff and funding provided by Wildlife Preservation Canada.

Learn more about the great conservation efforts from the Taylor’s Checkerspot Butterfly Recovery Project and all the collaborators working together on its continued success: visit http://www.goert.ca/activities/taylors-checkerspot/.

Above, Taylor’s Checkerspot butterfly (Euphydryas editha taylori) found on Denman Island. The recovery project for breeding the endangered species is moving to the zoo in Aldergrove, where seasonal staff and volunteers will work to bring back the species’ numbers (below).