Kinabalu Birdwing declared Sabah's state butterfly

Liew (centre) and guests during the event.

KOTA KINABALU: The elusive Kinabalu Birdwing, locally known as Kalibambang Emas, has been declared Sabah’s state butterfly.

State Tourism, Culture and Environment minister Datuk Christina Liew said this species (scientifically known as Troides andromache) is a symbol of Sabah’s rich biodiversity.

She said this vibrant and elusive species has remained hidden in the mountainous regions of Mount Kinabalu and Crocker Range.

“Its unique ecological niche has garnered attention from entomologists, both domestic and international, and has captivated collectors worldwide for over two centuries,” she said when announcing this on Monday (Oct 2).

“This splendid creature, with a wingspan of about 60mm to 70mm, showcases a magnificent blend of colours - black, yellow, grey, brown, and white - truly a testament to the artistic palette of nature,” Liew said.

She said its distinct characteristics and ecological significance make it a living masterpiece.

“But let us not forget that this butterfly, as exquisite and rare as it is, faces the threat of extinction,” she said.

Liew said that habitat destruction has categorised it as "vulnerable" on the Red Data List of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

She then said that this species is categorised as a protected animal under Sabah's Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997, further prompting the ministry to look into the possibility of upgrading the protection of the Kinabalu Birdwing to a "Totally Protected Species".

“We must act swiftly and decisively to protect this unique creature and the ecosystems it relies upon,” she added.

Consequently, nominating this species for recognition will not only help protect it but also draw attention to the broader efforts to conserve biodiversity in Sabah, as safeguarding this species will indirectly contribute to the preservation of its habitat”, she said.

Earlier, Liew said this declaration has been made possible due to collaborative efforts between state agencies and the Kinabalu Birdwing Project, especially to Dr. Stephen Laurence Suttonthe , the leading researcher of the Kinabalu Birdwing Project.

“On this note, I would also like to acknowledge the role of the Rotary Club of Kota Kinabalu in helping to preserve the elusive butterfly through a project in Kampung Kiau Nuluh,” she said.

She said the Rotary Club of Kota Kinabalu has assembled a team of volunteers to work with homestay operators in Kampung Kiau Nuluh since 2019.

This is to encourage tourists to visit, enjoy and capture pictures and videos of the birdwing butterflies in the mountain forests of Mount Kinabalu, Liew said.

“The aim of this collaboration is to provide the homestay operators with a new, sustainable income stream from nature tourism, specifically targeting the rare Kinabalu Birdwing,” she said.

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