A Butterfly, A Vine and a Wish

Authored by Narell Neville,                                                                                                                                                                                                        Early Childhood Educator/Nature Pedagogist

 

“Could it be? Could it really be?”

I started to get excited. The Bush Club children looked at me with suspicion as I leapt up and squealed. Fumbling for my phone I tried to capture what I knew was a rare sight indeed.

My name is Narell Neville, I run a Bush Kindy (Greystone Farm Nature Play) deep in the rainforest at the base of Mt Tamborine. A place where the endangered Richmond Birdwing Butterfly (Ornithoptera richmondia) is known to live. The butterfly lays its eggs on the vines (Pararistolochia praevenosa) and the caterpillars eat this vine. However both the vine and the butterfly are endangered due to habitat destruction and a mimicking toxic weed.

At Bush Club one day in November 2017, we were relaxing at our base camp when we spotted a beautiful butterfly. It was very noticeable as it was so big. It had lots of colours on it too and appeared to be flying slowly. Could it be? Could it really be? I started to get excited, the children were wondering what is going on. Yes, from my knowledge this just had to be a Richmond Birdwing Butterfly. They are endangered, I knew that. They are only found in and around Mt Tamborine. Oh I squealed for joy and tried desperately to film it.  I missed it but filmed the children and I discussing why the butterfly was endangered, why was the vine endangered too.

 

What can we do about it?

The children came up with some great suggestions:

Making pretend vines so the housing developers would destroy those and not the real ones. We could hide them in secret places, making them hard to find. They even suggested making a contraption to catch all the butterflies to keep them safe.

I promised the children I would look into how we could get some vines to plant here. We then went walking as we did every day, way up high, halfway up the mountain where we spotted 5 butterflies. Wow, what an incredible day we had.

 

 

Making pretend vines so the housing developers would destroy those and not the real ones. We could hide them in secret places, making them hard to find. They even suggested making a contraption to catch all the butterflies to keep them safe.

 

After speaking to a number of organisations, I was finally pointed in the direction of Healthy Land and Water, who agreed to give us a grant of $500 to purchase the vines to plant for the butterflies. Finding vines to purchase was difficult, they are slow growing, don’t like to be moved or their roots disturbed and of course are endangered. Eventually I secured some vines from Mr Richard Bull who is the Richmond Birdwing Conservation Network Committee & Gold Coast Area Representative.

 

 

Mr Todd Burrows from Land for Wildlife and Mr Richard Bull came out to talk to us further about the butterflies and the vines. We showed them all the cool spots where the established vines are growing, where we have seen the butterflies and where we think would be some good spots to plant new vines. They were as thrilled as we were to spot a few Richmond Birdwing Butterflies while we were there.


A big planting day was quickly organised and a number of families excitedly joined us in getting these vines in the ground. Every week we check and water them. They are growing so well. Discovering our first caterpillar has given us so much hope for this worthwhile project.
We will soon invite interested people to come and look at what we have done. Please contact Narell @Greystone Farm Nature Play.
We are so proud. We hope the butterflies thrive and live forever.

 

 

The very special place where I run my bush club from is deep in the wilderness in Kombumerri Country. I have full permission from the elders of this land and their blessings for the work I do as well. I would not want to publish the story without acknowledging them deeply.

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