The first species extinction in Europe

Source : The Times Newspaper (UK) November 3, 2007

Man drives butterfly into extinction and it could be bad news for us too

The Madeiran large white has been declared the first butterfly in Europe to be driven into extinction as a result of the impact of mankind.

Conservationists have spent 15 years combing its home territory but have been unable to find it and the butterfly was declared extinct this week at a conference in Laufen, Germany, where experts said that several other species could follow it into oblivion. The Madeiran large white had suffered a terminal decline because of loss of habitat to the construction of new businesses and homes, including holiday homes. Pollution from agricultural fertilisers was also likely to have played a part in killing off the species.

Experts from 31 countries met to share their findings on what is happening to Europe’s butterfly populations and what can be done to save them. Butterflies are regarded as important indicators of the health of the environment and their population movements can provide important clues to changes brought about by factors such as global warming.”

A local expert has said (through the Diário de Notícias 6/11/2007) that burnt forests, uncontrolled grazing, and the agricultural activities do not explain the disappearance of the butterfly, and that a virus that came to Madeira from another butterfly may hold the key. Another possible theory is the natural introduction of a parasitic wasp.

He does not believe that Madeira’s other butterflies are in any danger of extinction.

Madeira Large White Butterfly Facts

– habitat:  normally exists at altitudes of 650m to 1200m.  It also flies in lower altitudes to feed on agricultural lands, where the catapillars may be found.

– Description:  Span of 55 to 65 millimeters.  See photo.

Whilst the farmers might be cheering, we are in sad times indeed if it is in fact true that a whole species has been lost due to the actions of mankind.

However, despite conservationists spending 15 years combing its home territory (yeah, right! nets and all…) its hard to believe that the existence or not of an insect in such large remote areas can be easily determined, so here is the challenge for locals and tourists alike. Find one, take a photo of it (if possible sat on the current day’s newspaper), send it to (see contact us page), and I will publish it and notify the authorities of the findings. NO SPOOFS PLEASE!

1 thought on “The first species extinction in Europe”

  1. The IUCN Red List lists this species as critically endangered, and not specifically extinct. Is this incorrect? Can you 100% say that this species is extinct, and if so, where did you get your information for that?


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