Projects | SABCA


In 2005, a three-way partnership between LepSoc Africa, the Animal Demographic Unit (ADU) of the University of Cape Town, and the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) was initiated. The Southern African Butterfly Conservation Assessment (SABCA) was set up to gather all the available data on our butterflies' numbers and distribution, assisting SANBI in its mandate to report to government on the health of South Africa’s biodiversity.

The project was co-funded by SANBI and the Norwegian Agency for Development Co-operation; LepSoc Africa provided expertise and also contributed to funding by means of voluntary unpaid fieldwork and related services.

The geographical scope of the project was South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland. All distribution data for this region from as many as possible of the known butterfly collections around the world were gathered into a single database. The project was extended beyond the LepSoc Africa membership: a public Virtual Museum (VM) was established, harnessing the enthusiasm of “citizen scientists” and Butterfly Census Weeks (BCW's) were arranged.

Over the four year duration of the project (from April 2007 to March 2011) nearly 350 000 records were gathered – of which nearly 18 000 came from the public via the VM. Many new localities were found, and the conservation status of all of Southern Africa's butterflies – the commoner as well as the threatened ones – was assessed using the rigorous IUCN assessment protocol. The “Conservation Assessment of Butterflies of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland – Red List and Atlas” was published in 2013.

SABCA was a huge success, and raised public awareness of butterflies to a new level. There were inevitably many unresolved issues, taxonomic and otherwise. The project was of necessity limited to butterflies, which comprise less than 10% of the Lepidoptera (the rest being moths).

Outcomes of SABCA included:

  • Given the perceived public interest in butterflies and moths, a decision was made to carry on with the VM component of SABCA as LepiMAP, expanded to include moths, and covering the whole of Africa. LepSoc Africa and the ADU have a Memorandum of Agreement which requires LepSoc Africa to support LepiMAP with the identification of records, and to provide funding support. 
  • Greater scientific authority has been accorded to the conservation status of all of our butterflies, causing conservation bodies to take Lepidoptera conservation more seriously.
  • This has also laid the groundwork for a more concerted effort to arrest the decline of Southern Africa’s threatened Lepidoptera through systematically planned and implemented interventions. This programme is known as COREL (Custodians Of Rare and Endangered Lepidoptera), and has led to many conservation successes as well as to a few disappointments. For more information click here.


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