We are thrilled to announce that the Calgary Zoo and Parks Canada are working together to protect the endangered half-moon hairstreak butterfly in Waterton Lakes National Park.
The half-moon hairstreak (Satyrium semiluna) is a small, brown butterfly listed as an endangered species under the Species at Risk Act (SARA). The Blakiston Fan in Waterton Lakes National Park is the only location where this butterfly is known to occur in Alberta and has been designated as Critical Habitat under SARA since December 2016. The Waterton Lakes half-moon hairstreak population has undergone a serious decline since 2017 primarily due to habitat degradation from invasive plant species that compete with the essential native vegetation which the butterfly relies upon. Natural disasters, such as the 2017 Kenow Wildfire that burned more than 50% of the habitat, has also played a devastating role in the decline of this single isolated population.
The three-year conservation project between the Calgary Zoo and Parks Canada will aim to address knowledge gaps identified in the Species at Risk Recovery Strategy for the half-moon hairstreak. It will also assess how to proceed with conservation translocations for their recovery. Other conservation activities include assessing and restoring the butterfly’s habitat and managing invasive plants.
We are thrilled to bring applied science expertise to the fight against the extinction of species big and small, and we are proud to be working alongside other dedicated conservation leaders like Parks Canada.
- The half-moon hairstreak butterfly is an endangered species only known to exist in nine locations in Canada, eight in British Columbia and one in Alberta, on the Blakiston Fan in Waterton Lakes National Park.
- The small half-moon hairstreak butterfly is light brown with indistinct white-ringed black spots on its wings. Unlike many other species of hairstreaks, the half-moon hairstreak has no “tail” on the hindwing.
- Butterflies are important to the ecosystem, both as prey species, and as a pollinator. A diverse profusion of butterflies can indicate that an ecosystem is healthy and flourishing. They’re also beautiful and fascinating insects to observe.
- In Waterton, the half-moon hairstreak butterfly is primarily threatened by the loss of native plants - which the butterfly relies on for food, shelter and breeding - due in part to an increase of invasive plants.