Ornithoptera Alexandrae - Largest and Rarest of all Butterflies
The rarest of all the birdwing butterflies is confined to a small 100 km area within the Popendetta Valley, deep within the rainforest of Papau New Guinea.
The reason for the species very limited range is thought to be linked to the nearby volcanic mountain range which during some past eruption event laid down rich phosphates enabling a particular species of Aristoclia vine to flourish there. The veracious larvae appear to thrive on these vines exclusively.
Under continual threat from encroaching palm oil plantations and unscrupulous collectors/dealers this remains the only member of the birdwing family NOT legally farmed under CITES2 exemptions.
Alexandrae is one of the few butterfly species worldwide that are FULLY protected under CITES1 controls and is thus totally illegal to trade in. Large penalties (including a jail sentence) await those foolish enough to become involved in the illegal black market export trade. Alexandrae is reported to trade illegally at up to $15,000 per pair.
Live shot of a male Alexandrae's Birdwing butterfly from the jungles of Papau New Guinea
Males are a startling iridescent blue/green with a wingspan of up to 20cm. They also have a very distinctive, almost 'primeval' wing shape which makes them so desirable to collectors and interesting to lepidopterists.
The Females are brown with cream and yellow highlights but they hold the record as the largest butterfly in the world at up to 27cm wingspan!
Truly the Regent Queen of all butterflies.