An extinction process is in progress
Refer to Figure 1. The strongest colonies of the Knysna Skolly (1) were close to the Knysna Eastern Heads (Trimen 1883), but were destroyed by building activities there since the 1980s. The last colony there was lost in 1996, when the farm owner built a house on the exact centre of this colony (2). A strong colony was found on Sparrebosch Estate in 1996 (4) but despite the developers being made aware of this in the EIA report, it was exterminated by the building of the access road to the (now Pezula) Golf Estate in 1998. A small colony on the Duthie farm on the hills overlooking the Woodbourne pan (3) was eliminated by the change to sheep farming in the early 2000s. Overgrazing with sheep and regular burning similarly weakened the moderate sized colony on the easternmost portion of the Duthie farm (5). This colony was further threatened by what became the Fernwood development. The developers were instructed in their approval ROD to put aside an area for the butterfly. They have subsequently been uncooperative towards butterfly experts despite using the presence of the butterfly as a marketing tool, and the status of the colony is uncertain since the butterfly has not been seen there for several years.
Another small colony at Pezula (6 – opposite the hotel) was destroyed during the building of the golf course. The strongest colony now remaining on Pezula is below the sixth fairway of the golf course (7), and the Pezula owners have undertaken not to disturb it, and to manage the site in accordance with the recommendations of butterfly experts. In December 2004 a small colony was discovered during the scoping study for a development proposed in the south west corner of Pezula, just outside the proposed development area (8).
Further to the east, the north-facing slopes in the north-east corner of the Pezula Estate which were covered by plantations are being rehabilitated, and it is hoped that suitable habitat can be created. Plantations extend eastwards as far as the Harkerville State Forest and most of the way to Plettenburg Bay. Landowners in this corridor that have undisturbed north facing fynbos slopes have been and are being approached so that searches can be conducted for the butterfly, but so far there has been no success.
Whilst these initiatives have the potential of creating more suitable habitat for Thestor brachycerus we need to be equipped with the necessary knowledge to manage these areas with this aim in mind. It is therefore of crucial importance that research be done on the butterfly’s life history and ecological requirements in order to establish suitable management techniques.
Figure 1 Eastern Heads, Sparrebosch and Pezula