02 April 2020
Species data from the Museum collections have been shown to be of great value as a tool for prioritising conservation actions in Africa ( Fjeldsa and Tushabe 2005). The National Museums of Kenya (NMK) have an entomology collection, housed in 4,000 drawers in cabinets that contain over 1.5 million specimens, including the largest butterfly collection in Africa ( Arnett et al. 1997). Lampe and Striebing (2005) demonstrated how to digitise large insect collections in order to make their associated label data into databases that can be used for functions, such as creating distribution maps. The NMK’s swallowtail butterflies' collection had not been digitised and thus there was a need to capture the label data to create a database that can be used for mapping the distribution of the species in Kenya and elsewhere. These data have addressed one of the most significant challenges to insect conservation i.e. the lack of baseline information concerning species diversity and distribution ( Summerville and Crist 2003). These data have provided key historic papilionid species diversity and distribution data that can be used to monitor their populations, as butterflies are declining due to changes in land use, intensive agriculture and pestcide use, diseases and pest and climate change ( Potts et al. 2016; Bongaarts 2019). The publication of the occurrence data records in GBIF has been undertaken, thus making the data available to a wider audience and promoting availability for use.
The swallowtail butterflies collection at the National Museums of Kenya was digitised from 2017–2019 and this paper presents details of the Papilionid collection at the Zoology Department, NMK, Nairobi, Kenya.
The collection holds 7,345 voucher specimens, consisting of three genera and 133 species. The collection covers the period between 1850 to 2019.
The distribution of the swallowtail butterflies, housed at the NMK, covers East Africa with 88%, Central Africa (6%), Western Africa (4%) and Southern Africa (2%).