Idea leuconoe chersonesia (Mangrove Tree Nymph)
Idea leuconoe chersonesia
This species was thought to have gone extinct from Singapore.  Already a very rare butterfly even in Malaysia, Idea leuconoe chersonesia is a seashore species known to only make its appearance deep in mangrove swamp vegetation.  Although there were several unconfirmed reports of its sighting at Pulau Ubin and Pulau Tekong in the late 80's, no confirmed observation of its existence was obtained until recently, where this photograph of the species was taken with a digital camera. It was indeed a pleasant surprise to record the existence of Idea leuconoe chersonesia in Singapore.

Idea leuconoe chersonesia is a black and white butterfly like the other species of the genus Idea, but the marginal and submarginal spots are conjoined to form an irregular black band, and the wing bases are yellow-tinted.  Like the other Idea species, the butterfly glides gracefully amongst the treetops and floats like a piece of paper.  The butterfly is believed to be distasteful to predators.
Known host plants of other Idea species are Parsonsia helicandra, Parsonsia laevigata, Parsonsia spiralis, Tylophora hispida, and Cynanchum formosanum.  It would be interesting to discover what the local species' host plant is.
*Special Note :
The Fragile Forest at the Singapore Zoological Gardens in Mandai features a different subspecies of this butterfly - Idea leuconoe clara, which originates from Taiwan.  The Taiwanese subspecies has been successfully bred by the Singapore Zoo and is rather common at the Fragile Forest enclosure.  However, it is not endemic to Singapore/Malaysia and is different in appearance from the rare local subspecies chersonesia.

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