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Butterfly endemic to Canterbury region now the focus of a NZ-first school science project

A New Zealand-first conservation project is helping to reinvigorate the Kiwi curriculum.

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It is hoped for the first time in 200 years, the native boulder copper will make its home in the city. Source: 1 NEWS

Primary school students in Canterbury have been learning about a butterfly only found in their region, and are now working to save the species that's dwindling in numbers.

The Boulder Copper is a butterfly endemic to Canterbury.

They may be miniature, but a project to transport the butterfly to a school is no small feat.

“We've been finding the butterfly and capturing some for the translocation to Burnside Primary School,” lepidopterist Brian Patrick said.

“This is the first official translocation of an endemic New Zealand butterfly to a school in New Zealand, first ever.”

Patrick says the species used to be found across the Canterbury plains until humans came along and “without a thought we made roads and factories and housing suburbs and whatever and we displaced the butterfly”.

Hundreds of years ago it lived in the central city. Now students are replicating the Boulder Copper's habitat on their school grounds.

“We hope for them to spread all around Christchurch, finding new homes that are safe and good habitats with all they need,” one of the students said.

“The end result for the butterfly is that it has a home here in the middle of the city and will be able to live here and reproduce,” entomologist Ruud Kleinpaste said.

The project is quickly taking flight.

“It feels quite good how we're doing stuff for the environment,” another student told 1 NEWS.

And it's hoped the project continues to soar.

“I believe this is the exemplar for any other school that is wanting to do something that is out of the ordinary and use it as a context for education,” Kleinpaste said.

“This was not even about the butterfly, it was a project about education, cross-curricular where the kids do a project and have to do numeracy, literacy, social studies, history, Māori and, oh yeah, science, and that means that everything becomes meaningful.”