Critically endangered golden sun moth found by man walking dog in Wangaratta

February 26, 2021
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A critically endangered moth that only flies for a few hours a day over its short life has been found by chance in Victoria’s north east.

Will Ford was walking his dog in Wangaratta when he spotted the golden sun moth.

“I found this unusual moth and took some photos of it,” he said.

“When I see something I don’t recognise I love to try to identify it.”

Mr Ford uploaded the photo to a citizen science website and realised the species was the critically endangered golden sun moth (Synemon plana).

“It’s really uncommon to find a critically endangered species anywhere, let alone in the middle of an urban area with an old tip on one side and a sporting precinct on the other.”

Mr Ford, who works for an environmental organisation, made the discovery in December but only received official confirmation from the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) and Arthur Rylah Institute staff a few days ago.

“We really wanted to confirm the identification, because you don’t necessarily want to announce you’ve found a critically endangered species when you’re not sure,” he said.

Ian Davidson, an executive member of Wangaratta Landcare and Sustainability, said it was a very rare find.

“Will’s sighting is extremely exciting and is incredibly fortuitous that he saw it at the right time,” Mr Davidson said.

“This is the first sighting for sure within cooee of Wangaratta.”

Mr Davidson said the golden sun moth was a fragile species.

“They’re poor fliers, particularly the females. The females can rarely fly more than 100 metres between locations.

“They’re all basically separate populations and most of them have gone extinct except for a handful in [Victoria’s] north-east and southern New South Wales.”

Mr Ford said there were not enough resources put into monitoring the species and locals could play a role.

“I really hope that this encourages other people to take a real interest in the natural world even if they live in town,” he said.

“It highlights how even small, relatively modified, and degraded natural areas can still be really important in urban areas as well as our national parks and private land estates.”

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