ALBANY, NY – The Albany Pine Bush Preserve Commission invites the public to the Discovery Center for a rare opportunity to view Karner blue butterflies raised for release as part of its effort to recover this endangered species. The butterflies can be seen at the Discovery Center, located at 195 New Karner Road in Albany, through July 20 and perhaps longer depending on the rate at which they emerge from their chrysalises.
According to Executive Director Christopher Hawver, “This is a shining example of the outstanding work being done by our conservation science team on this globally-rare Preserve. It also showcases how the Discovery Center serves as a public resource connecting people directly to nature and science.”
After more than 50 years of decline, the Karner blue has returned to many of its former haunts throughout the 3,200-acre Preserve. This insect, first studied and named by zoologist and renowned author Vladimir Nabokov in 1944, can now be found at nearly 60 sites covering more than 400 acres of the Preserve.
“The Albany Pine Bush Preserve is one of several locations in New York State supporting Karner blue butterflies. Efforts to secure habitat for the Karner blue go a long way toward achieving the goal of restoring at least three populations in Glacial Lake Albany, the expansive sandbelt that extends from Albany to Lake George”, said NYS Department of Environmental Conservation Biologist, Kathy O’Brien, who coordinates statewide Karner blue butterfly recovery.
“Releasing butterflies into newly restored habitat is an important step in getting this iconic species off state and federal endangered species lists”, says the Commission’s Conservation Director, Neil Gifford. Gifford added, “The captive rearing program is funded by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service New York Field office. We are incredibly grateful for that support and for the work of the New Hampshire Department of Fish and Game, who raise the butterflies for us at their facility in Concord, New Hampshire.”
“The Service is proud to be a partner in this successful collaboration. The APBPC is one of the leaders in Karner blue butterfly conservation and recovery, and their efforts can serve as an example for other recovery areas in New York and across the range of the species” said Robyn Niver, endangered species biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
“We should celebrate the conservation success embodied in the Preserve’s work to restore the Pine Bush in general, and the Karner blue butterfly in particular,” said Patty Riexinger, Director of the Division of Fish, Wildlife and Marine Resources for DEC. “This is such a clear and motivating example of how we can contribute towards the restoration of imperiled species with direct, meaningful, and goal-oriented on-the-ground conservation work. This effort is certainly inspirational to all of us working in the conservation community.”
According to Gifford, “Twenty one adult female Karners were captured in the Preserve in June and transported to New Hampshire, where the eggs they produce were raised to chrysalises that were returned to the Commission last week. The resulting adults emerge at the Discovery Center and are released daily into the Preserve’s restored habitat”. In many cases these “new” colonies represent the return of this animal to the very locations where it was once abundant. According to Gifford, “we have returned Karners to 21 locations across the Preserve since 2008 and they all continue to support self-sufficient populations”. Gifford closed saying “We anticipate that this is the final year of our Accelerated Colonization program. With over >14,000 adult Kbb at >20 sites, in every section of the Preserve, we expect that natural colonization will be suitable to maintain/expand our metapopulation as we continue to restore additional habitat.”
“The work to restore habitat and recover the Albany Pine Bush Karner blue butterfly population has also improved habitat for dozens of other wildlife species listed as Species of Greatest Conservation Need in the New York State Wildlife Action Plan, including the red-headed woodpecker, prairie warbler and eastern hognose snake”, according to Joe Racette, State Wildlife Action Plan Coordinator for DEC.
The 3,200 – acre Albany Pine Bush Preserve (APBP), located in New York’s Capital District, protects one of the best remaining inland pitch-pine scrub oak barrens in the world. This extraordinary fire-dependent habitat provides homes for many plants and animals and contains 55 New York State-designated wildlife Species of Greatest Conservation Need, including the federally endangered Karner blue butterfly. The Preserve is a National Natural Landmark, a New York State Unique Area, Bird Conservation Area and a National Audubon Society Important Bird Area. Characterized by rolling sand dunes and miles of trails, the Preserve offers visitors many recreational opportunities including hiking, bird watching, cross-country skiing, horseback riding, mountain biking, hunting, fishing and canoeing. The Albany Pine Bush Preserve Commission is a public-private partnership created by the NYS Legislature in 1988 to protect and manage the APBP and provide the public with educational and recreational opportunities.
As the gateway to the Pine Bush, the Discovery Center is a state-of-the-art “green” certified interpretive center where visitors come to understand why the Pine Bush is rare and special. A visit to this unique destination is an exciting exploration where learning comes naturally through interactive exhibits, an outdoor Discovery Trail, and numerous programs on the ecology, natural history, cultural history and management of the Pine Bush. Admission to the Discovery Center is free (there is a small fee for programs). The Center is open daily weekdays 9am-4pm, weekends and most holidays 10am-4pm. For more information, visit www.AlbanyPineBush.org or call 518-456-0655.