Five kinds of butterflies have apparently disappeared forever
in South Florida. They are the Zestos Skipper, rockland Meske’s Skipper Zarucco duskywing, nickerbean blue and Bahamian Swallowtail. It has been recommended that the two skipppers be declared extinct by a Florida entomologist. Marc Minno was expected to conduct field research to locate the two skipper species for two years, but he was at for six. He still found nothing.
‘There are three butterflies here that have just winked out and no one did a thing about it. I don’t know what has happened with our agencies that are supposed to protect wildlife. They’re just kind of sitting on their hands and watching them go extinct.’ explained Minno. (Source: Miami Herald)
The agencies he was referencing are government entities that are supposed to protect vulnerable and endangered species, such as the the US Fish and Wildlife Service. However, there are so many species that are in trouble in the wild but don’t receive the legal and practical protections they need the Center for Biological Diversity has been forced to sue on their behalf.
In addition to a clear lack of support from government agencies because of insufficient funding or their very slow, unwieldy work style, butterflies in Florida have been damaged by the spraying of pesticides, habitat destruction, climate change, and invasive species introduced by humans. Iguanas, for example, eat plants that butterflies once used to lay their eggs in. Also, exotic ants may have replaced native ones that used to live in symbiosis with the butterflies, so their reproduction was made more unlikely.
Of course, there is also the question of how friendly or unfriendly Florida’s human culture is to the natural world. Manatees and panthers in Florida are routinely injured or killed by human vehicles. At one point there were so few wild panthers they became inbred and a subspecies from Texas had to be brought in to produce genetically healthy offspring. We know of a potentially devastating problem resulting from a very large number of Burmese pythons eating wild animals in Florida’s wetlands.
In particular, the human culture of South Florida – one that appears to emphasize hedonism – seems particularly ill-suited to ecological awareness and sensitivity. Activities such as getting drunk, dancing, shopping, eating out, tanning and so forth are essentially self-centered.
If the ethos encourages and even celebrates self-centeredness, who has time to learn about the other species on the planet, let alone care about them? That five types of butterflies disappeared in Florida is sort of a huge story, but one that is likely to not be listened to or heeded as a signal that something is wrong. Eighteen other butterflies in South Florida are imperiled, and if something isn’t done to protect them, are they headed in the same direction as the departed?