The R.C. Dening Collection
Introduction to Zambian Butterflies
by R.C. Dening F.R.E.S.
A History of Butterfly Recording in
|The volume of
literature on Zambian butterflies, at least over the past half-century, has inadequately
reflected the level of activity in collecting and recording.
The earlier literature
shows that activity started in the previous century, well before the country's boundaries
had been demarcated. Richard Crawshay collected around Lake Mweru in the far north between
June 1892 and January 1893, sending 71 species and forms (plus moths) to Sir Harry
Johnston, the first administrator of Nyasaland (Butler, 1893). Shortly afterwards, Carson
sent a collection from Fwambo near Lake Tanganyika, consisting of 18 species (plus moths),
(Butler, 1895). The species in these lists are mostly recognisable in terms of our current
*Checklist, although in some cases
generic and specific names have changed.
In the first decade of this century, F.Seiner recorded 42 species from Livingstone and
the Upper Zambezi (Strand, 1909).
However, the most important collector in the early years of this century was Sheffield
Airey Neave, who was involved in two expeditions to what was then North East and North
West Rhodesia, together with Katanga in the Belgian Congo. The first expedition, when
Neave was naturalist to the Geodetic Survey, took place between 1904 and 1906; this
covered the Eastern Province of modern Zambia, including much of the Luangwa Valley,
through to Mkushi, Ndola and the Copperbelt, then back via Serenje.
The second expedition, when Neave was Entomologist to the Katanga Medical Commission,
occurred during 1907 and 1908. This started at Kabwe (railhead at Broken Hill), continued
through the Copperbelt to Kansanshi near Solwezi; then travelled for a substantial period
through Katanga, right across the Lubudi River near the Kalene Hill pedicle; then back via
Serenje to Petauke and Chipata. He then went north again to Chinsali, the Chambeshi River,
Lake Bangweulu, Luwingu, Mporokoso, Lake Tanganyika, and back via Mpika to Chipata. A copy
of Neave's map can be found in Neave, 1910.
collected some 25 000 specimens, and listed 450 species, of which 367 came from Zambia, a
remarkable checklist for so early in our history. He also gave descriptions of the main
From 1902 to 1905, Harold Cookson collected in Katanga, sending his specimens out via
the new Rhodesian railhead north of Ndola, so that for many years there was confusion as
to whether any of them had been collected in Zambia. It was not until White queried this
point in the early 1950's, that Cookson published a correction to Druce's 1905
descriptions of his specimens, pointing out that all had actually been collected in
Between 1913 and 1918, Hereward Dollman collected 22 species and subspecies, first at
Mumbwa in 1913, but mainly at Solwezi and around the Lukanga River in Ndola Rural
District. On his death, the collection was presented to the BMNH and was described by
Norman Riley (Riley,
1921). Although Riley refers to "the much fuller and more interesting notes
contained in Dollman's numerous diaries, and (the figures of) larvae of which he made so
many extraordinarily good drawings", it seems that his intention to publish these at
a later date was not pursued.
After the end of the First World War, there is no record of any collections until 1951,
when the late C.M.N. White M.B.E. and R.C.Dening independently started to collect. Charles
White, initially an ornithologist, (and subsequently a notable African linguist), had
joined the Territory's administration just before the Second World War, with the private
intention of studying African Birds. In due course, he and Winterbottom wrote three
successive Checklists of the Birds of Northern Rhodesia, then needing a change, he turned
his attention to the butterflies.
Dening, an enthusiastic naturalist in his boyhood, and amazed by the diversity of
insect and plant life, began a study of the butterfly fauna of the Mwinilunga District,
where he was stationed for five years. In those days, the only means of identification for
most tropical species was Seitz (Seitz, 1925), of which White had a copy. The group was
joined by Kit Cottrell (later Dr.C.B.Cottrell), then a student, who collected and
conducted field studies during wide-ranging tours with his father, the Territory's
Director of Education.
From an early stage, White prepared a series of draft Checklists, based on earlier
literature, his own records, and those of Dening and Cottrell. These were not published,
since too many species could not at that time be identified with certainty, particularly
in difficult genera such as Euphaedra, Neptis and Ypthima, not to mention
the Lycaenidae. It was feared that if the lists became widely distributed, they would
acquire an unjustified authority. But by 1956, the Checklist amounted to some 700 species,
and White published the sections on Papilionidae and Pieridae (White, 1956).
The Checklist continued
to be maintained in draft form by White, Dening and Cottrell well into the 1960's, as new
information came to hand. For instance, Cottrell and Loveridge recorded 89 species from
the Cryptosepalum forests of Mwinilunga (Cottrell & Loveridge, 1966). Cottrell also worked
on Zambian Aslauga species in support of his monograph on the genus (Cottrell, 1981).
Meanwhile Dr.Elliot Pinhey, Curator of Entomology at the National Museum, Bulawayo,
took an increasing interest in the Zambian fauna (Pinhey &
Loe, 1977), assisting with identifications and making a number of expeditions,
particularly to Mwinilunga. (Pinhey was also a distinguished authority on African
dragonflies and Southern African Moths, with a major work on the latter and separate
volumes on Saturniidae and Sphingidae).
B.Barton-Eckett, in 1963/5, listed 20 species of Charaxes, 64 Lycaenids and 40
Hesperiids near Kafue, from Geoffrey Wedekind's Mswebe Tobacco Farm on the Big Concession
in North Mumbwa, the type locality of Charaxes cithaeron joanae
In 1968, two new enthusiasts appeared on the scene, Malcolm N.Mitchell and Frank
Schofield, collecting for about six years in all the more noteworthy habitats. Mitchell
was also involved in captive breeding and genitalia studies of difficult groups, and wrote
a Checklist of the Zambian Sphingid moths (Mitchell, 1973). His collection and slides are still
extant, but a number of other collectors who were also active in the 1960's can no longer
From the late 1960s,
Alan Heath collected extensively on the Copperbelt and in the northwest, also making
ground breaking expeditions to the Mafinga and Makutu Mts. He continued up-dating the
Checklist, leading to his 1982 unpublished provisional listing. In this he collaborated
with Dr.Stewart Fisher, (a descendant of Dr.Walter Fisher, who founded the Kalene Hill
Mission, Ikelenge in the early years of this century), and later with Mike Newport who had
commenced collecting on the Copperbelt in 1977.
Heath left Zambia in 1982 and moved to Bulawayo where he met Dr. David Hancock, who was
at that time the Curator of Entomology at the National Museum, Bulawayo. Hancock reviewed
Heath's collection and Checklist in the light of the latest literature and produced an
updated species listing, again unpublished.
During the period up to 1985 Newport continued to collect on the Copperbelt and
contribute records to the Checklist. He concentrated particularly on the South Mutundu
River area near Mufulira, a bountiful area of Brachystegia woodland and riverine
forest that yielded many new records, the most notable being Charaxes murphyi.
At the time of writing Newport still obtains material from the northwest and the
Copperbelt via his Zambian collectors, the material constantly adding distribution records
and flight period information to the Checklist.
Other collectors were active in the 1980's and have contributed records such as
C.J.T.Blease, Alan J.Gardiner and Ray Murphy; unfortunately at the time of preparation of
this publication the latter's extensive collection was unavailable for review. Over the
years, residents and entomological visitors to Zambia have collected in many places and
added species to the list or contributed to the literature, notably Ivan Bampton, Mike
Bingham, Steve Collins, the Hennings, Reinier Terblanche, Alex Kapulile and Felix Kayombo.
OF BUTTERFLY MATERIAL FROM ZAMBIA
- Natural History Museum, London (BMNH)
- National Museum of Zimbabwe, Bulowayo (NMB). (Including collections
made in Zambia by E.C.G. Pinhey, R Chahwanda and P. Mhlanga, and donated specimens form
collectors in Zambia.
- Transvaal Museum, Pretoria, RSA.
- National Museum, Nairobi, Kenya
- African Butterfly Research Institute Collection, Nairobi, Kenya
- Hope Entomological Collections, Oxford University Museum.
- Livingstone Museum, Livingstone, Zambia. (Including remnants of the
original collection of the late C.M.N. White MBE, with additions by R.J.Dowsett.
- Mount Makulu Research Station Collection, Chilanga, Zambia.
- International Red Locust Control Museum, Mbala, Zambia. (Based on the
original collection of L.D.E.F. Vesey-FitzGerald.
- C.J.T. Blease, UK.
- C.B. Cottrell, Zimbabwe
- R.C. Dening, UK (now at the Kelvingrove Museum, Glasgow, Scotland)
- C.W.S. Fisher, UK. (Main collection donated to ABRI, Nairobi).
- M.W. and A.J. Gardiner, Zimbabwe.
- A.Heath, RSA. (Collection donated to ABRI, Nairobi).
- W., G.A. & S.F. Henning, RSA.
- M.N. Mitchell, UK.
- J. Morrall, UK.
- R.J. Murphy, UK
- M.A. Newport, UK
- F. Scholfield, UK
- A.J. Smith, UK
- R.F Terblanche,RSA.
* This introduction to Zambian butterlies was originally intended as
an introduction to a Zambian Checklist being published as a book.