Sabah bets on Birdwing

Kinabalu Birdwing, also known scientifically as Troides andromache.

KOTA KINABALU: The rare, elusive and endangered Kinabalu Birdwing Butterfly is now recognised as the state’s official butterfly.

The Kinabalu Birdwing, otherwise scientifically known as Troides andromache, was made the official butterfly as part of the state government’s conservation efforts to promote the biodiversity found in the state.

The announcement was made by state Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Christina Liew, who said that apart from reflecting the symbol of the state’s rich biodiversity, the Kinabalu Birdwing Butterfly is set to become the new tourism icon for Sabah.

“It will highlight Sabah’s status as a hub of insect mega-diversity. This unique and endemic butterfly species resides within the regions of Mount Kinabalu and Crocker Range,” she said.

Liew said that since its discovery around 1892, it has remained elusive because it lives at elevations between 1,000 and 2,000 feet above sea level.

“For more than 200 years, collectors all over the world have been enamoured with this birdwing species because of its distinctive feature, which has attracted the attention of entomologists, particularly those from abroad,” she added.

Also known as the Borneo Birdwing, this large butterfly boasts a wingspan of about 60mm to 70mm.

The males display a combination of black, yellow, and grey hues, while the females feature additional brown and white patterns on their wings.

These unique characteristics, along with its ecological significance, make it a particularly remarkable species.

The Kinabalu Birdwing Butterfly is “exquisite and rare”, as described by Dr Stephen Sutton, the leading researcher of the Kinabalu Birdwing Project, Liew said.

“Moreover, it is seldom encountered and challenging to capture. Unfortunately, habitat destruction has led to its classification as ‘vulnerable’ to extinction on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List.”

It is classified as a protected animal under Part I of Schedule 2 of the Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997.

She expressed her hope that the nomination of this species would not only acknowledge its significance but also ensure its protection and raise awareness about the broader initiatives aimed at conserving biodiversity in Sabah.

“Safeguarding this species will indirectly contribute to the preservation of its habitat,” Liew added.

The Sabah State Cabinet approved the proposal to declare the Kinabalu Birdwing as the state butterfly. It will use its local name “Kalibambang Emas”.

The name is derived from the local ethnic language and signifies a big, brightly coloured butterfly.

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