Tswalu Kalahari Butterfly Research



Principle Researcher/s, Supervisors and Primary Academic Affiliation:

Reinier F. Terblanche; Department of Conservation Ecology, University of Stellenbosch (PhD Candidate); University of South Africa (Research Fellow)

The butterfly project at Tswalu Kalahari Reserve was initiated in July 2013 by the Tswalu Foundation. Initially the butterfly study at Tswalu Kalahari Reserve focused on Brown-veined Whites but soon expanded into a butterfly biodiversity and landscape ecology project.


To date, a checklist of 76 species of butterflies has been compiled. Furthermore, possible new butterfly taxa have been discovered, life histories of Acraea species have been found, new concepts of Brown-veined White butterfly biology in the field have been introduced, and new perspectives on a southern African butterfly migration have been presented. Quantitative methods to count butterflies in the field, as discussed at a workshop on global monitoring of butterflies, have been applied and tested, interesting discoveries stemming from butterfly hilltopping surveys at Tswalu have been made, and detailed vegetation studies to inform landscape ecology of butterflies have been conducted. Reinier has also compiled an authentic list of host-plant species of butterflies of Tswalu Kalahari Reserve, including the shepherd’s tree.



  • -Providing an up to date and scientifically sound annotated checklist of butterfly species of Tswalu Kalahari Reserve.
  • -Developing and designing methodology of quantitative studies of butterfly assemblages and caterpillar activity (including host plants) at Tswalu Kalahari Reserve (this methodology will also be useful beyond the boundaries of Tswalu Kalahari Reserve, across Africa).
  • -Evaluating the conservation importance and significance of the Tswalu Kalahari Reserve with special emphasis on species of conservation concern/ species of special interest, migrating species such as the Belenois aurota (Pioneer Caper White/ Brown-veined White) and Catopsilia florella (African Migrant) as well as the overall butterfly diversity.
  • -Creating a sound basis for a larger project about Tswalu Kalahari Reserve butterflies, to be conducted by a research team.
  • -Providing indications of how natural sciences and art can connect with butterfly studies as a model case from the Tswalu Kalahari Reserve.
  • -Identifying pointers for conservation/ environmental management of Tswalu Kalahari Reserve from the Tswalu Kalahari Butterfly Research project.



  • -Established a collaboration with Institute of Evolutionary Biology, University of Edinburgh, UK. With the help of Tswalu Kalahari Reserve organised for Dr Simon Martin to visit Tswalu Kalahari Reserve in January 2021.
  • -Paid an independent lab (payment as donation by Soil-specialist Company) and received results from a soil analysis at and near individual Boscia albitrunca trees (shepherd trees) at Tswalu Kalahari Reserve.
  • -Established a collaboration between botanical art and butterfly life histories. This collaboration involves the results of field biology on butterfly life histories (stages of life cycle) and botanical art. The collaboration is with renowned botanical artist Gillian Condy.
  • -The Tswalu Kalahari Reserve Butterfly species list is now almost 80 butterfly species.
  • -Reinier Terblanche visited Tswalu on sabbatical from 5 December 2021 – 5 January 2022. This month-long visit was pivotal for completing a number of articles associated with his PhD study which will be completed in 2022. Numerous breakthroughs were made during this visit.

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