People discovered the sensitivity of a dog’s nose thousands of years ago, initially using it for hunting. Fast forward to present, and these animals have evolved into valuable members of our society, serving in police, customs, military, and rescue missions. Dogs have an incredible sense of smell that is a million times more sensitive than ours. It is related to the numerous scent receptors in their noses and the highly developed nasal processing centers in their brains. Dogs not only use their noses to detect scents, but they can also differentiate between various odours with amazing accuracy.
Dogs in Conservation
Thanks to that, dogs have become indispensable in research and conservation projects over the last 30 years. These sniffer dogs have been trained for a variety of tasks ranging from tracking wolves, lynx, wildcats, or bats to identifying carcasses (dead bodies), litter, and even targeting small insects. The possibilities are almost limitless, as long as the target object emits a smell, dogs can track it down. While this type of use of dog is common in the USA, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, the use of nature or species protection dogs remains relatively unknown in Europe.
However, there is one organization in Austria, called Naturschutzhunde (nature conservation dogs) that promotes this type of dog work. They are experts in training sniffer dogs, for different areas of application, having certified teams in wildlife management, combating illegal persecution of protected species, searching for carcasses, tracking wild animals, and supporting various scientific projects.
What: Our focus is on collecting data about Parnassius apollo with detection dogs playing a key role in mapping caterpillar population across selected sites. These dogs ensure precise and non-invasive data collection by identifying unique odors associated with Apollo caterpillars and their habitats.
Where: Field surveys span the Austrian Alps, targeting specific sites within this region to monitor population development. This diverse landscape ensures comprehensive data collection, covering a wide range of potential Apollo butterfly habitats. These are the places where Parnassius apollo lays its eggs, which over time turn into caterpillars.
How: Dogs undergo a special training, that teaches them to recognize the unique odors associated with Apollo caterpillars. At first, the dog sniffs the live caterpillars and gets a treat for it. Then, tea bags scented with the caterpillar odor are introduced as a game element. The dog learns to associate finding the tea bags with getting a reward. As the training progresses, the dog practices in different places to get better at identifying the caterpillar scent. This simple but effective method helps the dog find the Apollo butterfly caterpillar in the wild.
When: Fieldwork usually takes place from March/April to June, when the caterpillars hatch from the eggs and crawl around.
Why: Dogs with their great sense of smell easily overtake humans in finding and detecting targets. The caterpillar monitoring, facilitated by the human-dog team guides us in conservation efforts, allowing us to make informed decisions on preserving this endangered species in its natural habitat.
In October, LIFE Apollo2020 was presented at two significant conferences!
1) The European Congress of Entomology 2023 (ECE 2023)
The congress took place in Heraklion, Crete, from the 16th to the 20th of October. This international event was an important meeting for more than 1000 entomologists and enthusiasts from the European Union, as well as representatives from overseas (UK, USA, Australia). The diversity of attendees transformed ECE 2023 into a global gathering, enabling a rich exchange of ideas and experiences.
The congress offered a truly comprehensive program, involving thematic sessions such as invasion biology and climate change, ecology and behavior, biodiversity and conservation, and much more. Workshops, poster presentations, excursions and hundreds of lectures provided the participants with the unique opportunity to learn about the latest research and developments in the field.
Our team member Tomáš E. Vondřejc held a scientific poster presentation on “Conservation of Parnassius apollo in Poland, Czech Republic and Austria under the theme of “Biodiversity and Conservation“. The project LIFE Apollo2020 made a great impression, capturing the attention of dozens of individuals with a keen interest in the conservation of P. apollo butterflies. Particularly captivating were the specifics of Apollos’ breeding farms and their operation. The innovative approach of using dogs for butterfly identification sparked broad interest as well, opening possibilities for the application of this measure in various conservation projects.
Throughout the congress, Tomáš had the opportunity to engage in conversations with numerous experts in the field, notably those involved in other LIFE projects with similar focuses, such as SouthLIFE and LIFE for Pollinators. The Project LIFEApollo2020 also caught an attention of the CINEA representatives from the European Commission, leading to a detailed discussion about the project. The outcome was successful, with LIFE Apollo2020 being pointed out as an exemplary case of good practice in their presentation, positioning it as one of the most outstanding species-focused projects for implementation.
The Apollo Project team is very grateful to be a part of ECE2023 and looks forward to future opportunities.
2) Apollo butterfly – research, protection, and monitoring
The LIFEApollo2020 team from Poland and Czechia participated from 19th to20th October in the scientific conference ‘Apollo butterfly – research, protection, and monitoring’ in Červený Kláštor, Slovakia. Thanks to the event organized by Pieninský národný park (PIENAP) and Pieniński Park Narodowy (PPN), we had the opportunity to present our project to a broader international community of scientists and practitioners.
Our team delivered three presentations in total. Tomasz Suchan from Instytut Botaniki im. W. Szafera Polskiej Akademii Nauk w Krakowie discussed ‘Genetic research of the Apollo butterfly as part of the LIFE Apollo2020 project’, David Číp, representing Skupina JARO shared insights on ‘Experience in the protection and breeding of the Apollo butterfly within the JARO Group‘, and lastly, Dariusz Kuś from Karkonoski Park Narodowy addressed ‘Active protection of the Apollo butterfly in Karkonoski National Park – the LIFE Apollo2020 project’.
The conference offered an excellent platform for engaging in discussions, exchanging experiences, and gaining knowledge about conservation initiatives in various regions of Europe and the world. Our collaboration with PIENAP and PPN holds significant importance, as we share common objectives, enabling us to mutually enhance our projects and effectively protect Parnassius apollo and its natural habitats.
We would like to express our deep gratitude to the management, Mr. Vladimír Klc, the director of PIENAP, Mr. Michał Sokołowski, the director of PPN, and Ms. Iwona Wróbel, deputy director, as well as the teams of both National Parks for their invitation and the organization of this event. We also appreciate the dedicated moderators, Mr. Paweł Adamski and Mr. Ludomir Panigaj, for facilitating productive communication among participants.
Parnassius apollo, commonly known as the Apollo butterfly, is a beautiful and iconic species of butterfly found in Europe and Asia. Unfortunately, this species is on a rapid decline due to several factors, including habitat loss, climate change, and over-collecting.
The Apollo butterfly has a very specific habitat requirement, which is high altitude meadows and rocky slopes with specific plant species for feeding and breeding. However, these habitats are under threat from human activities such as tourism, agricultural expansion, and infrastructure development. As a result, the population of the Apollo butterfly is decreasing at an alarming rate.
Factors of the decline
Parnassius apollo belongs to the most attractive butterfly and very often appreciated not onlyby scientists but also visitors. Therefore, decline of this butterfly species is so sensitive and painful. Decline of Parnassius apollo, particularly in a central Europe is dated back already since the 19 centuries.
Observations of gradual decline, some environmentalist even use the word extinction, of this butterfly in Europe identified numerous cases, proved that decline is very much due to combined negative impact on Parnassius population.
There are several major factors contributing to the decline of the Parnassius apollo population. One of the main factors is habitat loss. The main reason for that are human activities such as tourism, infrastructure development, and agricultural expansion.
The Apollo butterfly has very specific habitat requirements, including high altitude meadows and rocky slopes with certain plant species for feeding and breeding. When these habitats are destroyed or degraded, the butterfly population declines.
Climate change is another major factor affecting the Apollo butterfly population. The butterfly’s life cycle is closely tied to the timing of the availability of host plants and pollinators, which can be disrupted by changes in temperature and precipitation patterns. As a result, the butterfly may not be able to complete its life cycle and reproduce successfully.
Over-collecting of the Apollo butterfly is also a contributing factor to its decline. Some people collect the butterfly for commercial purposes or for private collections, while others collect it for scientific research. This can have a significant impact on the population, especially if it is not done sustainably.
Finally, the Apollo butterfly is also affected by pesticide use and other pollutants in the environment. These substances can be toxic to the butterfly and its host plants, and can disrupt the delicate balance of the ecosystem.
Overall, a combination of habitat loss, climate change, over-collecting, and pollution are the major factors contributing to the decline of the Parnassius apollo population. It is important that effective conservation efforts are put in place to address these issues and protect this beautiful species.
Major groups of factors
Experts agreed on the three major groups of factors such as:
a) natural factors including long-term climatic changes, habitat succession, and short-term weather anomalies;
b) anthropogenic factors that include broad impact of industrialization and butterfly over-collecting;
c) intrapopulation factors that include genetic erosion and behavioural changes.
Habitat loss is undoubtedly the most destructive for Apollo’s long-term survival. There are several interesting researches and monitorings which provide very important information concerning causes of extinction of numerous butterflies in their biotopes in Europe.
To help protect the Apollo butterfly, several conservation efforts have been implemented (one of them is our LIFE Apollo2020 project). These include habitat restoration, captive breeding, and protection of important sites. However, these efforts must be implemented on a larger scale and in a coordinated manner involving multiple stakeholders, including governments, NGOs, researchers, local communities, and individuals.
In conclusion, urgent action is needed to prevent the extinction of the Apollo butterfly. Conservation efforts must be comprehensive and well-coordinated to ensure the long-term survival of this beautiful and important specie
Very useful on this aspect is report developed by the expert of IUCN already two decades ago. These data provided important baseline for any kind of follow up researches and management measures to support survival rate of this rare butterfly. This work provides various protective measures that were, or should be undertaken to stop further Parnassius apollo decline.
Climate change is a significant threat to the survival of Parnassius apollo. The altered environmental conditions and increased frequency of extreme weather events can negatively impact their habitats, food sources, and overall health and survival.
The XII European Congress of Entomology 2023 (ECE 2023) is set to take place in Heraklion, Crete, from the 16th to the 20th of October. This international event is a significant gathering for entomologists and enthusiasts, offering a space for discussing critical entomological research and conservation efforts.
You might wonder what entomology is? It is the scientific study of insects, a field of biology that explores a fascinating and diverse world of these little creatures. Insects, representing a vast majority of known species on Earth, play a crucial role in ecosystems, agriculture, and human life. From pollinating crops to recycling organic matter, insects have a big impact on the world we inhabit.
Among the participants of the Congress is our team member Tomáš Ernest Vondřejc, a dedicated zoologist from the Education and Information Centre White Carpathians, representing the LIFE Apollo2020 project. He is going to hold a scientific poster presentation on “Conservation of Parnassius apollo in Poland, Czech Republic and Austria (Project LIFE APOLLO2020)” under the theme of “Biodiversity and Conservation“.
Date: Thursday, 19th October 2023 (Poster Session IV) Location: Cultural Conference Center of Heraklion, Crete, Greece (Poster Area is on Level 1) You will find the Detailed program of the congress here.
Tomáš Ernest Vondřejc is part of the LIFE Apollo2020 project team, and his work is important in ensuring the successful preservation of Parnassius apollo butterflies and their habitats. His responsibilities range from conducting in-depth research to organizing field trips and implementing practical conservation strategies.
The LIFE Apollo2020 project is looking forward to be represented at the ECE 2023, where it will have the opportunity to network with other enthusiastic entomology professionals and exchange knowledge with them.
For more information, please visit the official website of ECE 2023.
When it comes to protecting our planet’s valuable biodiversity, it sometimes takes a hero to defend the masses. The Parnassius apollo is a champion in the fascinating world of butterflies. The Apollo butterfly, often referred to as a “umbrella species,” plays a critical role in protecting not only its own species but an entire environment rich with lesser-known species. In this article, we’ll focus on why the conservation of Parnassius apollo is so crucial and how it acts as a bioindicator, offering valuable insights into the health of its habitat.
The umbrella effect
Imagine a majestic forest, vibrant with life. Within it, an umbrella opens, shielding the delicate flora and fauna beneath from the harsh elements of habitat loss and environmental degradation. This metaphorical umbrella is the Parnassius apollo, a butterfly species that holds a vital position in the web of life.
When we say “umbrella species,” we mean that by looking after the Parnassius apollo, we actually keep many other animals and places safe too. We often talk a lot about saving big animals like tigers and pandas, but small creatures like the Apollo butterflies need our help too.
The domino effect of conservation
By focusing on the preservation of the Parnassius apollo and its habitat, we unintentionally protect countless other species living in the same ecosystem. This butterfly’s presence is indicative of a healthy and intact environment, with thriving populations of plants, insects, and other organisms that rely on the same resources.
The Parnassius apollo acts as an umbrella species, not only for the protection of biodiversity but also for the preservation of habitat mosaics. These mosaic-like habitats are composed of various interconnected ecosystems, creating a rich and diverse landscape. By conserving the species itself, we, in turn, protect other species and habitats associated with it.
Many butterfly species benefit from habitat conservation measures taken to protect the Apollo. A significant number of these butterflies find themselves listed in Red Books of Animals and other rare and endangered species lists, highlighting the critical importance of the Apollo’s preservation.
A sensitive bioindicator
Beyond its role as an umbrella species, the Parnassius apollo serves as a remarkable bioindicator. A bioindicator is a species whose status provides valuable information about the overall health of its ecosystem. In the case of Parnassius apollo, it proves to be particularly sensitive in this regard, making it an invaluable asset in environmental monitoring.
One of the specific areas where the Parnassius apollo excels as a bioindicator is in the monitoring of xerothermic biotopes—ecosystems characterized by hot, dry conditions. These habitats are under constant threat due to climate change and human activities. As an indicator species, the Parnassius apollo can tell us a great deal about the quality and health of these fragile environments. If the butterfly thrives, it suggests that the ecosystem is healthy and stable, while a decline in its population signals potential problems.
Protect Apollo, protect our planet
In a world where nature faces many challenges, the Parnassius apollo stands out as a true hero. It’s not just looking out for itself but also for a whole community of other creatures and the places they call home. And, it’s also a smart detective, helping us understand how our environment is doing. By taking care of the Apollo, we’re not just helping one species; we’re making sure that the amazing web of life on Earth remains strong and healthy. This butterfly helps us protect other animals and special places like sunny meadows and rocky grasslands. By doing this, we’re making the world a better and more diverse place for the future.
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