An entomological institute in Germany is sharing more of its rare collection of insects with Taiwanese institutes. The collection includes thousands of insect samples gathered in Taiwan about 100 years ago and is known as the “Formosa Collection.”
The collection belonged to the late German entomologist Hans Sauter, who spent several years in Taiwan collecting samples of butterfly species during the Japanese colonial period. He later donated his collection to the Senckenberg Deutsches Entomologisches Institut for preservation and further research.
Containing 6,000 to 7,000 samples, it may be the most comprehensive collection of Taiwan’s insects.
Many of the species collected by Sauter are now extinct in Taiwan, said Stephan Blank, a specialist at the institute.
Through exchange programs between the institute and Taiwanese academic institutions, some of the samples of extinct species are now on display in their country of origin.
For example, when the National Museum of Natural Science in Greater Taichung was planning the exhibition “Formosa Butterflies” last year, the curator asked the German institute to loan them some samples of extinct species.
The institute presented a pair of purple-blue Euploea phaenarete juvia and a pair of golden-colored Danaus plexippus as a gift, together with 374 insect samples from the “Formosa Collection,” Blank said.
Blank said he was impressed to see Taiwan’s biodiversity for himself when he visited earlier this year. In addition to discussing cooperation projects with the natural science museum and other academic institutions, he traveled to the mountains and the northeastern coast.
“In terms of a zoogeographical region, Taiwan is included in the ‘oriental’ area, but species found in the high mountains are mainly Palearctic species, which have remained there from the glacial time,” Blank said.
However, Taiwan’s butterflies, like much of its other wildlife, have faced pressure from the country’s focus on economic development.
Every year, in parts of the country where purple milkweed butterflies pass through on their annual migration, some highway lanes or roads are closed to reduce the number of butterflies killed by vehicles. However, such efforts are not enough, as thousands of the butterflies are still killed before they can reach their breeding ground.