3.1. The Years 1984–1991
3.1.1. Commercial Butterfly Collecting
In 1984, there was a well-established local commercial butterfly collector in Millbank called Orlando Wilson (“the butterfly man”), who worked with anyone who was willing to purchase specimens of local butterfly species. A dealer based in the United States had established a working relationship with Orlando in which P. homerus
was collected and sent, and Orlando was paid. Orlando had been supplied with butterfly-collecting equipment and had been taught how to package and post specimens to the United States. Besides this U.S. contact, other individuals occasionally visited in search of specimens. The best price Orlando received for a P. homerus
specimen was US $
50, but he generally received US $
15–20. Collecting these butterflies was an attractive venture in Millbank at the time, as the daily wage for a farm-hand was about US $
10. Moreover, this gave the collector a sense of prestige among the small subsistence farming community; fair money was made, and a collector could work and associate with “important” people. During this same period, a female specimen was advertised in the United States in 1984 for US $
] and US $
3000. Information was also received on a second collector on the other side of the mountain, based at the town of Bath. This collector reportedly worked with several helpers and would remain in the forest around Corn Puss Gap for several days while on hunting trips. This time frame was understandable given that Corn Puss Gap was almost a day’s hike from the town of Bath. Efforts to locate or contact this collector were futile. Despite the presence of at least two main collectors, the major threat to the survival of P. homerus
was considered to be the loss of suitable habitat.
3.1.2. The 1984 Expeditions
The 1984 expeditions were conceptualized, organized, and partially funded by Dr. John Parnell, then a Senior Lecturer in the Zoology Department, Mona Campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI). Millbank was chosen for the expeditions as information had been received that P. homerus was actively being collected in the area, and secondly, little hiking was necessary to reach P. homerus habitat. Several trips were conducted from June to July, 1984, with the main aims being:
The establishment of a research base which allowed relatively easy access to the butterfly’s habitat.
The exchange of information with the local community.
The production of a short video on the species.
The establishment of a research base was deemed necessary because the typical access to P. homerus habitat through the town of Bath required four to five hours hiking; this left very little time for research on one-day exercises. The heavy rains also made access very difficult, and researchers often had to sit in tents and wait for several days for the butterflies to become active again after the heavy downpours. Millbank emerged as the ideal location as the town was nestled in the very foot of the forests, and P. homerus habitat could be reached in less than one hour’s hike.
The exchange of information with the Millbank community was considered essential; indigenous know-how and scientific knowledge were exchanged and the researchers gained an appreciation for the value of indigenous ecological understanding, such as ideal areas of maximum occurrence, the best times of the day and year for sightings, locations of local plants used as larval food-plants, and flowering plants preferred by adult insects. The huge amount of information that resided among the community that was passed down through the generations would have taken the most intense scientific project several years to unearth. Conversely, there was scientific information such as larval life histories, egg parasites, adult longevity, and other general environmental knowledge, to which researchers had access and that was shared with the local community.
The development of a video was considered vital to the success of this community-based conservation effort, as there was no other program aimed at disseminating visual information on the plight of the species. The video documented egg-laying, described the activity of both immature and mature larval stages on the food-plant, demonstrated pupation, showed the emergence of the adult, and discussed conservation problems. The ultimate goal of the video was to raise awareness both locally and internationally, hopefully resulting in legal protection and research. John Parnell left Jamaica in late 1984, but he had the video professionally edited by Ms. Carolyn Sides at the University Video Editing Center before he left. The Natural History Society of Jamaica (NHSJ) and the Department of Zoology, UWI, remained the main sources of support, including for the provision of opportunities for public engagements where the video was often shown, accompanied by slide shows and discussions. At the end of the 1984 expeditions it became clear that the species could not be protected without a community-based conservation effort, and three factors bore relevance to this realization:
There were no laws protecting the species from unlimited collection.
Even if there had been laws, the site was so remote that enforcement would have been extremely difficult without local support.
The culture of the community was closely intertwined with the forest, and this provided an ideal pathway towards the conservation of the species.
3.1.3. Lacking Environmental Knowledge despite Vast Indigenous Ecological Knowledge
In 1984, the trade in P. homerus
was unregulated, both locally and internationally. NGOs such as the NHSJ had lobbied the Jamaican legislature for the revision of the environmental laws and the establishment of a system of protected areas unsuccessfully for some years. The only protection was through a system of Forest Reserves. These reserves were well-respected by the community of Millbank; they considered it permissible to hunt wild pigs, harvest medicinal herbs, yams, and other forest resources from the reserve, but farming there was generally not practiced. Indigenous ecological knowledge in this community was vast, being grounded in the Maroon heritage [19
]. There was a very intimate relationship with the natural environment, in which the community depended on the forests for various resources including hunting wild animals, food and drink, and medicinal and recreational herbs. Vivian Crawford (former Executive Director of the Institute of Jamaica) once explained that the maroons believe “there is an answer for every human ailment in the forest, and everything in the forest has a use.” They were in fact part of the ecosystem (understood a lot of its intricacies) and had a wealth of knowledge. In various ways, they understood many of the environmental factors that affected their agricultural yields [18
Despite the vast indigenous ecological knowledge, an awareness of some key environmental issues was lacking. P. homerus, “the big butterfly”, was generally regarded by the community as very special, mainly because of its size and beauty. Also, because of interest showed by various visitors and the dollar value attached to each specimen, the butterfly became even more important to the community. However, there was no knowledge that it was endemic to Jamaica, or that it had a very limited distribution within Jamaica, and there was no concept of its conservation status. Conservation of P. homerus then seemed achievable if more information on the species was integrated into the culture of the community. A respect and understanding of community culture was essential, and mutual trust was necessary. Researchers learned from the indigenous ecological knowledge, while scientific expertise—not just on P. homerus, but also on general environmental information—was shared. Researcher-community interactions were recognized as a means towards both the empowerment of the community and the education of researchers.
3.1.4. Developing Community Interactions
Field work continued with both one-day and extended visits to the Millbank area. Between 1985 and 1991, there were at least two one-day trips and one two-day trip per month. On the extended trips, entomologists were accommodated in the homes of members of the community, as the nearest guest house was over an hour’s difficult drive away in Port Antonio. This close interaction with the community was invaluable, as it allowed the development of trust as well as the opportunity to understand the local culture and learn from indigenous ecological knowledge, while sharing scientific knowledge. There were discussions on general environmental issues, and in particular, the plight of the butterfly. One primary aim was the conversion of Orlando Wilson from a butterfly collector to a data collector and conservationist. He was taught how to record basic field data, supplied with data sheets, and paid a regular stipend. A regular stipend ensured that he was at least as sound financially as when he received spasmodic payments for his butterfly shipments. The initiation of visits from educational or ecotourism groups was also an important part of the process, as the natural environment was a huge natural laboratory, and there was the added benefit of interactions between these groups and the community.
Using the Millbank Community Centre as a base made it possible to accommodate large groups. Annual visits by the NHSJ became a special event for the community, as such visits sometimes included town-hall meetings with open discussions on various environmental issues. It also became possible to conduct annual field trips for many undergraduate courses with students from UWI as well as the United States. Such field trips (at least three per year) allowed for a high level of interaction between visitors (students) and the community, with interactions of varying types; some visitors were even invited into the homes of residents in the community. Visits by groups, as well as field trips with students, had economic significance, as members of the community were employed as field guides, and visitors spent money directly in the bars, as well as purchased fruits, bamboo craft, cultural paraphernalia, and food from local shops. The potential impact (culturally and financially) may be appreciated when one considers 60 visitors embedded for periods of 2–7 days in a community of 50 households and 150 residents. These exercises helped to impart to the community that their natural environment was important, not just to them, but to the wider society. While these visits were conceived as educational rather than for tourism, they embodied most of the basic principles of ecotourism, such as building environmental and cultural awareness and respect, providing positive experiences for both visitors and hosts, and providing financial benefits and empowerment for the community.
3.1.5. P. homerus as a Flagship Species
Due to the reliance of P. homerus
on very specific environmental conditions of dense forest growth and high relative humidity [5
], it was considered a prime candidate as a flagship species for habitat conservation in a broader context. By the late 1980s, P. homerus
emerged as a flagship species for the conservation movement in Jamaica, and while it is yet to be declared officially as the national butterfly, it was treated as such; it has been used for several costumes in the National Independence Festival celebrations, and illustrations appear on souvenirs such as T-shirts and coffee mugs. Not surprisingly, when the Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park was finally established, the butterfly was chosen as its emblem. Later, there was a special issue of four Jamaican postage stamps in 1994, and it was placed on the most prized of phone cards of the Jamaica Telephone Company, as well as on the JAM $
1000 bank note. Up until today, its status has not diminished, as P. homerus
has become one of the key species in the present campaign to save the Cockpit Country (habitat of the western population) from commercial exploitation and environmental degradation.
3.1.6. Legislative Protection
In January, 1988, just as the conservation efforts of P. homerus of the 1980s gained traction, Eric Garraway, along with fellow advocate David Hopwood, was requested to meet with the Hon. Anthony Johnson, then Minister of State in the Ministry of Agriculture, with a special responsibility for the environment. A briefing on the status of species was presented and the Minister made it abundantly clear that the government was in no position to stop the work of FIDCO, as the economic potential was simply too great for a struggling economy. Therefore, other means had to be investigated to save the species. There was need for amendments of existing legislation to afford protection for P. homerus, and a commitment was made towards the establishment of a system of protected areas, which would offer protection to the species contained therein and, in general, their habitat. Three main legislative developments initiated by the Minister subsequent to that meeting were:
Amendment of the Wildlife Protection Act to include P. homerus (gazetted in April, 1988).
Establishment of a system of protected areas (1990).
Major revision of laws related to the management of Jamaica’s natural environment. This resulted in the establishment of the Natural Resource Conservation Authority (NRCA) in 1991.
P. homerus was not protected under the Jamaican Wildlife Protection Act of 1945; this act focused mainly on terrestrial vertebrates and fishes. The first international protection was achieved under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES). A proposal by the United Kingdom in 1987 (CITES July 1987 Proposal No. CoP6 Pro. 56) resulted in P. homerus being placed on the CITES list which identifies species that are threatened with extinction. CITES prohibits international trade in specimens of these species, except when the purpose of the import is not commercial, for instance for scientific research. In these exceptional cases, trade may take place provided it is authorized by the granting of both an import permit and an export permit by the country of origin of the species.
Initial local official protection for this butterfly was provided by the Jamaican Wildlife Protection Act, which was amended in 1988 to include P. homerus. This Act is the only statute in Jamaica specifically designated to protect species of animals. Section 6 of the Act makes it an offence to have in possession any protected animal/bird or their parts and, under this Act, offenders may be fined or imprisoned for up to one year. Additional protection was provided by the Natural Resources Conservation Authority Act of 1991, which “provides for the management, conservation and protection of the natural resources of Jamaica”. Jamaica officially deposited an Instrument of Acceptance with CITES on 23 April 1997; this was accepted on 22 July 1997, and the island officially became one of the participants of CITES. The inclusion of P. homerus in the Jamaican Wildlife Protection Act and the official participation of Jamaica in CITES provided a completely new angle from which to approach its conservation.
Despite all the legislative successes for the conservation of this species and its habitat in general, there was no formal educational program to enlighten the populace, or even law enforcers of the new legislation. This is a shortcoming that, in hindsight, would have been pivotal for getting the message to the general populace, and possibly making the concept of a flagship species more understood by the rest of the Jamaican populace. Enforcing environmental laws is always very difficult, especially in developing countries, and a general educational campaign may have been helpful for preventing the emergence of new collectors. The fact that this butterfly often traversed areas utilized by the community members on their daily farming activities, and that the specimens were easy to hide, made enforcement difficult. The only guaranteed way to ensure adherence was through community-based education at the source, backed up by the dissemination of the knowledge that appropriate punishment of perpetrators would be imposed by the Government if violations could be proven in courts of law.
3.2. The Years 1991–2004
3.2.1. The Rio Grande Research Station and Community Centre
Armed with new legislation and a sense of support from the state, a new research program began in 1990, which was the first long-term study of the species requiring researchers to remain in the field for extended periods. One of the main features was the establishment of a base, the Rio Grande Field Station, in 1991. The staff of the station consisted of a research assistant, Audette Bailey, a field assistant from the local community, Errol Francis, and Eric Garraway. The establishment of the field station allowed researchers to be more deeply embedded in the society, and involvement in the community took various forms. A small, informal school developed at the Rio Grande Field Station. Small children attended after normal school hours, and were engaged in classes that included basic academic materials (often school assignments), as well as fun and games, sometimes based on environmental material. Drs. Bailey and Garraway were invited to become members of a community group called the “Millbank Progressive League”. This group focused on community participation to tackle problems that arose. It also organized community activities such as “Ole Time Singting”, a festival celebrating the end of African slavery in Jamaica. It is important to note that the national celebration of the end of slavery was abolished in 1962, and was not re-established until 1997. The festival highlighted indigenous customs, especially those based on the use of natural products, or general relationships with the natural environment. The importance of conservation of local species such as P. homerus could easily be included in these celebrations. The preservation of this celebration by the Millbank community, as well as other communities across the island, was important to the re-establishment of these celebrations nationally.
The Rio Grande Field Station, and hence Millbank, emerged as focal points for research, teaching, conservation, and heritage efforts. The number of undergraduate visits, both local and international, increased significantly and included students from the United Kingdom. Several graduate projects were also initiated [18
] and various researchers visited and worked in the area [24
]. Visits by environmental NGOs, such as the NHSJ and the Jamaican Geographical Society, also increased. Because of the increased involvement of students, researchers, and tourists, several field guides were employed from the community on an “as required” basis, by both the field station as well as by visitors. These guides were educated on various key environmental and natural history issues, and two of these guides (Errol Francis and Donovan Grey) were also leaders in their community. These men played a vital role, and became ambassadors for the environmental movement. The Rio Grande Field Station closed its doors in 1999 due to a lack of funding, which led to a significant reduction in the number of visitors to the community; however, research continued through occasional visits. The loss of funding for the field station was a significant upset to the conservation efforts, and the community saw a decline in revenue from visitors as the frequency of visits decreased. Fortunately, the vacuum produced by the closure of the field station was soon filled by a community-based NGO.
3.2.2. Blue and John Crow Mountain Nation Parks (BJCMNP)
The establishment of the Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park (BJCMNP) in 1991 provided a new avenue for both education and enforcement. The park covers over 48,000 ha and encompasses significant portions of the Blue Mountains and John Crow Mountains, including prime habitats for P. homerus. Moreover, as stated earlier, the park adopted P. homerus as its emblem. Millbank is situated in the buffer zone of the National Park, and the agricultural activities extend very close to the border of the park. There were occasional incursions into the park, but this was rare, as these areas were relatively remote. Generally, there was a great respect for what was formerly a Forest Reserve and what was then renamed a National Park. Owing to its proximity to the park, Millbank was immediately targeted by the park’s buffer zone management program. A residential ranger station, staffed by four park rangers, was established in the community, and these rangers, led by ranger Rudolph Poyser, played an active role in environmental education (informally, as well as though school visits), while at the same time acting as enforcers of the park regulations.
In 1993, the park launched a major environmental education program in conjunction with the Rare Center for Tropical Conservation (RARE), an NGO which had previously conducted environmental education programs in several eastern Caribbean countries. The RARE model utilized a threatened, endemic species of bird in each island as its focal point for the wider conservation message. However, the status of P. homerus
and the availability of information on the species made it an ideal choice, and so the formula based on birds was amended [29
]. This one-year program targeted school children primarily, and included songs, costumes, poems, posters, bumper stickers, broaches, and illustrated presentations. The BJCMNP suffered a significant reduction in budget throughout the early 1990s; the number of park rangers was reduced, and finally there were no rangers in residence by the last years of the decade. Although with a diminished presence, personnel of the National Park continued their involvement with the community. Several short education projects were organized, including one by The Nature Conservancy, which focused on the management of the freshwater systems of the area.