Code of Conduct



Conservation of Butterflies in South Africa’s prime purpose is the conservation of wild populations of butterflies and moths and their habitats in South Africa.  This entails encouraging people to observe, appreciate and understand the needs of living insects.  The issue of collecting butterflies and moths is controversial and it is unlikely that any code will be completely acceptable to everybody.  This code is based on the principle that no Lepidoptera should be killed or collected casually, unthinkingly or without good reason, and that collecting, should never be carried out in a way that would endanger, or have any adverse effect on any population of non-pest Lepidoptera.


The main threats affecting Lepidoptera populations relate to habitat loss or inappropriate management. Many species, however, are becoming so rare or localized that uncontrolled collecting, particularly if targeted at vulnerable sites and species, might adversely affect populations and lead to local extinctions.

In these circumstances, CBISA believes that care, consideration and restraint need to be exercised at all times, even when collecting is carried out for legitimate and acceptable purposes such as scientific research or the identification of difficult species.  In some situations specific byelaws prohibit the removal of specimens of flora and fauna from sites while many nature reserves, including private land controlled by either the land owner or CBISA, have a no collecting policy without prior permission, which will only be granted as a day permit and not a seasonal or annual permit.  Legislation is also in place, which prohibits the collection of certain species.  CBISA members are encouraged to report any obvious transgressions relating to unauthorized collecting to the appropriate authorities.


The collecting of Lepidoptera from the wild for recreational purposes in order to form an extensive cabinet collection is potentially harmful where the practice is likely to have an adverse effect on highly localised and declining species.

With the advent of macro-photography and the existence of ample collections of cabinet specimens in museums for study and research, the need for collecting has greatly diminished. However there are a few collectors that continue to collect specimens for a private collection of their own. One must note that there are different types of collectors and these would collect according to their needs. Collectors, who collect a species just to have a collection, collect up to four males and four females of each species. The more serious collector collects up to nine males and females for his/her private collection, and the expert research is entailed to collect up to sixteen males and females for comparisons and in-depth research. Amassing butterflies because of their rarity is a wanton means of destruction


Collecting for commercial purposes is not in the best interests of Lepidoptera conservation in South Africa and CBISA supports all measures to regulate trading of butterflies and moths.

Members should be aware of the legislation covering the sale of particular species; such is found in the red data books and be prepared to assist the authorities in monitoring and upholding the law.  Members are strongly urged not to support the trade in protected species through the purchase of stock from commercial breeders.  A code of conduct on livestock rearing for members and educational purposes is in preparation, and will be implemented by the South African Butterfly Breeding Association, SABBA.


Collecting for identification purposes cannot be justified in the case of South African butterflies, which can all be readily identified in the field without recourse to killing. In the case of moths, identification is not always straightforward and where the exact identification of a particular species is required for a legitimate purpose, then the taking of a minimal number of voucher specimens is acceptable.


Practical conservation requires a considerable depth of understanding that can usually be obtained only from painstaking, long-term scientific research, which may entail collecting or sampling.

Such work should be carried out only after prior consultation and agreement with landowners and CBISA. Additionally, the CBISA recognizes that scientific research can have legitimate reasons for collecting and killing insects, for example in developing environmentally-friendly methods of controlling agricultural pests or vectors of disease, and in taxonomic studies.  However, we expect all such work to be carried out responsibly and with due regard to conservation considerations.  Again, wherever possible, existing collections should be accessed for source material.


Collecting for captive rearing purposes can have a legitimate educational objective and can be a useful way of understanding some of the details of the life history of butterflies and moths.

However, scarce species should not be collected at all, unless as an integral part of a conservation program approved by the Conservation authorities and other leading conservation bodies. For such purposes it is preferable to collect the earlier life cycle stages of a species rather than the adult form and to collect from non-conservation sites. Should a collector want to breed butterflies, he/she undertakes to be members of the South African Butterfly Breeding Association, SABBA for the correct procedures and according to a code of conduct presented by the organization. Restraint should be exercised in the numbers of eggs and larvae taken for rearing and any release should be onto the sites from which they were originally collected.  Releases should be reported to the appropriate local SABBA office in you area.


The contents of this code should not be construed as reasons for failing to comply with the law concerning protected Lepidoptera.  If any person is uncertain as to the legal requirements for PERMITS regarding the legitimate possession of specimens of protected species or captive breeding stock for commercial purposes, advice should be sought from the relevant bodies such as SABBA, CBISA, Department of Environment  &Tourism, Conservation Services, and WESSA.