The Queen Alexandra’s birdwing is the largest butterfly in the world, with a wingspan a foot wide. They are singularly gorgeous to behold, with the females black with cream patches and bright yellow abdomens and the males, who are about a third smaller, with gleaming patterns of gold, turquoise, green and black.
The fast-flying butterflies live only in the rainforests of Oro province in northern Papua New Guinea and face the loss of their habitat due to the growth of oil palm plantations, as well as farms for coffee and cocoa. They are currently classified as an appendix 1 species under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and cannot be traded as specimens for overseas collections. But would it be better to loosen these regulations and downgrade the Queen Alexandra’s protected status to appendix 1, to “incentivise poor subsistence farmers to protect the butterfly’s habitat by allowing them to sell an agreed quota of specimens,” asks the Guardian?