Nearly 200 endangered butterflies were released into the wild near Vita earlier this summer.
Melissa Grantham is a Conservation Biologist with the Nature Conservancy of Canada. She says the Poweshiek Skipperling butterfly is native to Manitoba and relies on a prairie habitat for its entire lifecycle.
Grantham says a number of key organizations in both Canada and the US have been working to maintain the population of the Poweshiek Skipperling.
“This program here in Canada is being led by Assiniboine Park Zoo or Assiniboine Park Conservancy and this year they released 191 Poweshiek Skipperlings back into the Manitoba Tall Grass Prairie Preserve.”
191 is a very significant number when you consider how many are left in the world.
Grantham says “we are estimating that there are probably fewer than 500 globally and they only occur in two areas. We have a small population here in Manitoba in the southeast part of the province and there is one other area where they occur in Michigan and that is it.”
The southeastern-most portion of Manitoba is the ideal place to do this work. Grantham says it is a very special place.
“In the past, tall grass prairie used to be much broader across North America and a lot of that habitat has been lost. We estimate that about five percent of the global expanse of tall grass prairie is all that is left and down in southeastern Manitoba is actually one of the largest intact expanses of that type of habitat left."
The butterflies were released in July.
In addition to the Poweshiek Skipperlings they released near Vita, Grantham says they also released 16 Dakota Skipper butterflies into the wild in the Interlake area. She notes they are also an endangered species found only in Manitoba.