The Miami blue butterfly is one of the very few species that is only found in Southern Florida, but finding them have become increasingly rare. Once thought to have been completely killed off by Hurricane Andrew, a small population of about 50 was found in 1999. Efforts have been made to grow the population, but according to a new lawsuit the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has done little to help, not even listing it on the endangered species list.
Miami blues used to be found all throughout Florida, but the tale of their decline, much like that of the Florida Panther, highlights the ecological havoc humans wreaked on Florida during the rapid development over the past century.
Found originally around its namesake town of Miami, the Miami blue could also be found as far north as Tampa Bay and as far south as the Dry Tortugas. Though, by the 1990s the butterfly could only be found in small pockets of the Florida Keys and were thought to have been completely extinct after Andrew. The University of Florida has since started a breeding program in hopes of partially restoring the population.
Though the species is protected by endangered species laws on the state level, the federal Fish and Wildlife Service has failed to list the butterfly. Now the Center for Biological Diversity has filed a notice that it intends to sue the agency.
"Twenty-seven years of bureaucratic delay have allowed the Miami blue butterfly to decline to the very brink of extinction," Tierra Curry, a conservation biologist at the Center said in a statement. "We are filing suit because the Fish and Wildlife Service must now take emergency measures for this beautiful butterfly to have any chance of survival."
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Though, the Miami blue isn't the most hearty of species. Once reaching adulthood, females live only about 5 days, while males lives for about two.
Curry believes, though, that the problem in protecting species isn't just limited to the blue.
"The Miami blue butterfly is in urgent need of protection," she says. "And the Obama administration has shown no sense of urgency about saving the Miami blue butterfly or any of the hundreds of other species waiting for protection."