He is better known for the spadework he has done to save the world-known Brenton Blue butterfly from extinction, but now another butterfly species is named after him and his wife.
Edge, who lives in Knysna, has been an extraordinary senior lecturer at the School of Environmental Sciences and Development in the postgraduate programme on Biodiversity and Conservation Ecology of the North-West University’s Potchefstroom Campus since 2009. The spadework for the conservation of the Brenton Blue butterfly actually was the subject of his Master’s degree at the then PU for CHE.
The announcement that a butterfly species has been named after him and his wife was made in an article in the journal African Entomology which was published earlier this year. Here AF Gardiner and RF Terblanche describe the specie that is called Erikssonia edgei. The title of the article is “Taxonomy, biology, biogeography, evolution and conservation of the genus Erikssonia Trimen (Lepidoptera: Lycaenidae)”.
According to Prof. Henk Bouwman of Zoology, the first specimen of the butterfly actually was caught by Edge’s wife Esmé when they collected butterflies in the Waterberg in December 1981. It was near Perdekop, approximately 33 km west of Vaalwater in the Limpopo Province.
Its common name is the Tilodi or Waterberg Copper butterfly. The original specimen of the butterfly is currently housed in the SA Museum in Cape Town.
Although South African butterflies have been well researched over the past 120 years, the Erikssonia population was only discovered in the early eighties.
Excitement about this honour bestowed on the Edge couple has been dampened by the fact that the numbers of these butterflies are on the wane. When it was discovered in the mid-eighties, the population was still thriving. In the 1990s there were much fewer of them due to a change in farming practices in the environment where they are found, and because the area is no longer burnt as often as in the past.
According to Edge, certain butterflies, especially those associated with ants, benefit when the veld is occasionally burnt because it opens up the habitat, which causes the plants which provide the butterflies with food, to grow better. However, the butterflies only benefit from such a burn if it takes place during the period when the butterflies do not fly and are underground as larvae in ants’ nests.
In the second place, collectors have also probably exhausted these butterfly populations. The authors of the article are of the opinion that it could be one of the rare opportunities where a butterfly population also had to experience the stress of over-collection apart from the stress of habitat change.
However, members of the “Lepidopterists Society of Africa” are still looking for another place where this specific butterfly is found, and are hopeful that it is in the vast mountains of the Waterberg.