The R.C. Dening Collection
Introduction to Zambian Butterflies
by R.C. Dening F.R.E.S.
|The first reports of
butterflies from Zambia are those of Butler, (1893 & 1895), from Lake Mweru and
Fwambo, near the southern end of Lake Tanganyika. A total of 72 species were recorded from
Lake Mweru and neighbouring areas, collected by R.Crawshay, and 31 from Fwambo, collected
by A.Carson. Strand (1909) recorded 42 species from Livingstone and the upper Zambezi
River, collected by F.Seiner. Neave (1910) published the results of two expeditions to
Zambia and southern Democratic Republic of Congo, recording 367 species of butterflies
from Zambia. Riley (1921) later listed 22 species from Solwezi and neighbouring districts,
collected by H.Dollman.
There is a dearth of reports between
1921 and 1956, when White published a list recording 17 species of Papilionidae and 49
species of Pieridae. Pinhey (1962 & 1964) recorded 13 little known species collected
on museum expeditions to Mwinilunga and the Copperbelt. Cottrell and Loveridge (1966)
listed 89 species from Cryptosepalum woodland south of Mwinilunga. Pinhey and Loe
(1977) discussed and illustrated 135 species in their "Guide to the Butterflies of
Zambia", (also published under the title "Guide to the Butterflies of Central
and Southern Africa")
In recent times Heath (1977) recorded the life history of Pseudopontia
paradoxa, Cottrell (1981) revised the Aslauga purpurascens complex, while G.A.
& S.F.Henning (1988) reviewed the genus Capys, describing two new taxa from
Zambia. Heath and Hancock have described several new taxa and discussed others from Zambia
(Heath 1983, 1985; Hancock 1984a, b, 1985a, b, 1987, 1989, 1990, 1992; Hancock &
Gardiner 1982; Hancock & Heath 1985, 1988). Collins & Larsen (1994) have described
a new Skipper, Abantis bamptoni, while Dening (1995) summarised records of Abantis
in Zambia and more recently, S.F. & G.A. Henning (1996) reviewed the genus Axiocerses
and Heath (1997) reviewed the whole lycaenid tribe Aphnaeini.
A feature of the Zambian situation has been the lack of a National
Museum able to finance the continuous, efficient curation of collections. This has been an
important reason for the absence of any earlier study of the fauna as a whole. Collections
donated to the Livingstone Museum (e.g. by White), have largely disintegrated during
periods of financial stringency. A further problem has been the widely dispersed nature of
individual collections. However, the National Museum of Zimbabwe in Bulawayo has
contributed very considerably over the years, and has to a large extent offset the
deficiencies of the Livingstone Museum.
The preparation of this checklist should not, therefore, be seen as
the work of only a few individuals. A great many specialists and enthusiasts have
contributed to our knowledge of the Zambian butterfly fauna, supplying specimens to major
museums, informing each other, sometimes contributing to the literature. Individual
contributions are discussed more fully in a later section on the history of butterfly
recording in Zambia.
|Zambia became an independent
republic in 1964. Prior to that, it was known as the Territory of Northern Rhodesia,
administered by the British Colonial Office. Its boundaries were only fully demarcated at
the beginning of the century.
It is a large country of some
753,000 square kilometres in south central Africa. On the north it is bounded by the
Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaïre), in particular the Shaba Province,
which includes Katanga. The Benguela Railway passes to the north of the border, probably
explaining some locality labels on early museum specimens (not to be confused with Lake
Bangweulu in the Luapula Province of northern Zambia).
To the east the country is bounded by Tanzania, Malawi and
Mozambique; to the south by Zimbabwe, Botswana and a small strip of Namibia; and to the
west by Angola. In all, Zambia stretches through some ten degrees of latitude, from the
borders of the Kalahari Desert at Sesheke in the south, to the tropical shores of Lake
Tanganyika in the north.
Zambia's current population is estimated at nine million, at least
half of whom probably live in the urban areas. Its economy has hitherto depended largely
on mining, although manufacturing is increasing, and agriculture has long contributed
exports of tobacco, cotton, coffee and horticultural products.
The staple urban food is maize, with a strong contribution from
wheat flour; some of it made from local wheat. The rural staple in south, central and
eastern areas is also maize. In the higher rainfall northern areas, wherever the soils are
heavily leached, and indeed in other areas with difficult soil conditions, cassava is the
staple crop. Commercial food crops of some importance, other than maize and wheat, are
Soya and groundnuts.
The current FAO Production Yearbook gives the following indication
of land use (thousand hectares):
|Forests and Woodland
|The climate is largely
governed by the Inter Tropical Convergence Zone, which brings seasonal rainfall from the
northwest. This starts in September in Mwinilunga, but does not reach southern parts of
the country much before December. The reverse process starts in March, the rains not
leaving Mwinilunga before the beginning of May. Thus, the extreme northwest has a mere
four months dry season, while towards the south and east it may extend to nine months.
This influences the vegetation and the butterfly fauna.
the summer rains, average temperatures normally vary between 18ºC and 24ºC. It is during
the dry season that extremes occur. As the rains move away dry southeasterly winds take
their place. As mid-winter approaches these winds become colder so that, at the altitude
of Lusaka, temperature may fall almost to freezing point.
Then, as the sun moves south again, temperatures rise over the dry
bare landscape. The trees are deciduous and lose their leaves during this dry season. By
the end of September and in October shade temperatures may rise to 35ºC. Total rainfall
decreases from north to south. On the Copperbelt for instance, it averages around 1,220mm,
while in the Southern Province only 840mm can normally be expected, falling in some years
to 630mm, or even to severe drought levels.
A snapshot of weather factors at a particular Copperbelt site
(Mufulira Mine) is given below.
Mufulira Mine Site
|Dry and dusty
||April to October.
|Heavy rains with severe summer lightning
||December to March.
||October and November.
Sub tropical climate.
Sandy or laterite soil conditions.
Altitude above sea level:
1,220 Metres. Mean barometric pressure 882 mbar
Ambient dry bulb temperatures:
||35ºC in shade.
||1ºC in shade.
||40ºC in shade.
||-2ºC in shade.
|Maximum monthly average of daily maximum (January)
|Minimum monthly average of daily minimum (Sept.)
Maximum relative humidity and maximum temperature do not occur simultaneously)
|Maximum gust (likely once in 50 years)
|Maximum gust (likely once in 10 years)
||variable, predominantly N to E
||S to SSE
|Maximum annual recorded rainfall
|Average annual rainfall
|Maximum rainfall in 24 hrs
|Maximum rainfall in 3 mins
|Thunderstorms per year
Hours / day (avge) April to October
Hours / day (avge) November to March 5
above climatic parameters butterfly habitat variation is related to altitude, soils and
particularly in the north, the river systems (map here).
Congo River Basin
The watershed defines much of the northern border, so that there is
no direct contact between the riverine forests of the Congo and Zambia. All of the rivers
and streams immediately to the north of the border fall within the catchment of the
Lualaba River, which eventually becomes the Congo River. Hence evergreen riverine forest
stretching back to the great central rainforest of Africa extends close to Zambia's
northern border. Migration over the watershed by some of the more vigorous species, such
as Charaxes, may well occur in many places.
The Lualaba itself rises near the border; just north of Kansanshi
Mine in Solwezi District, where also occurs one of the highest trigonometric points at
1,724 metres. The southernmost tributaries of the Lualaba extend, on the east, through
Lake Mweru into Zambia, and up the Luapula River to its source in the Bangweulu Swamps;
however, Lake Mweru largely breaks the evergreen forest chain. In the west, the longest
tributary of the Lualaba extends right to the border of northwest Mwinilunga, a very short
distance from the source of the Zambezi.
However, the unusually rich evergreen forest fauna of the Kalene
Hill pedicle of northwest Mwinilunga actually occurs on eastern tributaries of the
Zambezi, which flow southwesterly into Angola, and has no direct connection with the
Much of the rest of the country lies on a plateau at an altitude of
between 1,200 and 1,400 metres, falling gradually towards the southeast. On this plateau
rise the three great rivers and their tributaries, which cut into the plateau and fall,
sometimes through gorges, to the lowest points in Zambia.
The Zambezi, Kafue and Luangwa Rivers
Having its source in Mwinilunga at an altitude of
approximately 1,370 metres, and having passed in a wide arc through Angola, the Zambezi
re-emerges into the Barotse Plain, passes through dry sandy forests to the Victoria Falls,
and on to Lake Kariba. Below the Kariba Dam, it is joined by the Kafue at an altitude of
around 500 metres, and then by the Luangwa at Luangwa, (formerly Feira), at around 370
metres, the lowest point in Zambia. From here it flows through Mozambique to the sea.
||The Kafue (left) also
rises on the northern watershed, at around 1,450 metres, passes through the Copperbelt,
circles the centre of the country to the Kafue Flats at about 900 metres, and falls
through a gorge to enter the Zambezi.
The Luangwa rises in the high country to the east,
near the Malawi border, at an elevation of about 1,400 metres. There it is fed by
tributaries from the highest places in Zambia, the Makutu Mountains (1,850 metres), the
Mafinga Mountains which lie astride the Malawi border at Chisenga (highest point 2,164
metres), and the borders of the Nyika Plateau. At the latter, only a small area falls
within Zambia comprising the Chowo montane forest and associated montane grassland
(altitude 2,000 metres).