NEWSLETTER No. 3 - Summer 1980
WEST MIDLANDS BRANCH, BUTTERFLY CONSERVATION
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The dilemma facing an organisation such as ours is brought sharply
into focus in this issue of our Newsletter by a letter received from Jack Green,
the county Lepidoptera recorder for Worcestershire. The letter was prompted by
enquiries concerning the possible discovery of a new Chalkhill Blue site by one
of our members last summer. We consider that this raises such important issues
that we feel justified in highlighting the main points here (also see letter
"...These enquiries illustrate the difficult paradox for conservation organisations. Inevitably interest is highest in the rarer species which you set out to conserve. Similarly, the interest of collectors is also directly related to the scarcity of the species.. Human nature being what it Is, there is always the temptation to pass on locations where rarer species have managed to survive, usually because of enthusiasm and sincere deep interest, sometimes egotism. As a consequence, once a leak of information has occurred, it can spread extremely rapidly, and inevitably the collectors get to know....... Although at long last we are seeing.a gradual move away from collecting - and I'm sure your group are making a contribution - there are still far too many people about who are intent on killing the insects. Their impact is probably very small compared with that of people who destroy or contaminate habitats, but statistically it may be significant..."
Our own position, as a branch of the B.B.C.S. is clear. Firstly, while recognising the contribution made by collectors of old to our knowledge of lepidoptera, we see no justification, given the current status of butterflies, in collecting for collecting's sake. To any collectors, who see membership of our branch as a way of obtaining privileged information we say "keep away - we do not want you". Secondly, as far as our own field trips are concerned, we see these as a way of introducing genuine butterfly enthusiasts, with a sincere interest in conservation, to a range of species they may otherwise have little opportunity of seeing. Thirdly, it is our policy in the Newsletter not to be specific about the locations of our rarer species. We do welcome members' records but promise to exercise care in our publication of such material.
A balance has to be struck: we have to make the public aware that butterflies are worth conserving without putting certain scarce species at risk. Thankfully, collecting does seem to be on the decline, and the rising membership of the West Midlands branch, and the B.B.C.S. in general, does indicate an increasing interest in butterfly conservation. More and more people are prepared to take home a roll of film as their record of a butterfly expedition rather than a tray full of dead insects and a killing bottle. This is how it should be, but, while there are still collectors at large, discretion has to be our watchword.