MULTIPLE cases of mistaken identity have cost 3417 lives in New Zealand, but the mass killing is getting the green thumbs up.
In a quest to rid Nelson of much of its great white butterfly population, the Department of Conservation (DOC) was offering a $NZ10 reward for each specimen caught and killed over the school holidays.
The bounty yielded 134 victims but also had a positive spin-off for keen vegetable gardeners with 3417 common white butterflies, which dine out on cabbages, being culled by mistake.
“It was hard for many people to tell the difference between the great white butterflies and small white butterflies, so not surprisingly a lot more of the more numerous small white butterflies were handed in,” DOC project manager Bruce Vander Lee said.
“We wanted to see them though, to check they were not great white butterflies.”
DOC is trying to wipe out the pest butterfly which poses a major threat to endangered native cresses, and garden and commercial plants like cabbage and broccoli.
It has so far been found only in the Nelson and Tasman regions and officials are keen to prevent it spreading further afield.
In addition to those knocked off by those eager to collect the bounty, DOC staff had wiped out 165 butterflies, 4650 caterpillars and 532 egg clusters since late August which was the start of its spring breeding window.
“We’re pleased at the high numbers of butterflies, caterpillars and eggs being intercepted and removed. At this stage though it is too early in our eradication program, started just under a year ago, to fully assess the extent of our impact on the pest butterfly population,” Mr Vander Lee said.