A number of endangered dragonflies that have spent the last several years growing up in captivity, inside a lab, have finally been released into the wild this past weekend.
The insects’ new home is a forest preserve located in Illinois. The forest already hosts a small population of 320 Hine’s Emerald Dragonflies, the species in question, and researchers believe that they should all get along just fine.
Researchers from the University of South Dakota previously collected the dragonfly eggs from southwestern Wisconsin as the species was believed to be in danger of going extinct. They raised them inside the lab for four (4) to five (5) years, and now they’ve released three (3) of the twenty (20) specimens into the wild.
Daniel Soluk, project leader and professor from the University of South Dakota, gave a statement informing that researchers are trying to maximize the Hine’s Emerald Dragonflies’ chances if surviving in captivity. He went on to explain that very few dragonfly eggs manage to reach adulthood out into the wild. The ratio is maybe 10 out of 1.000. But inside the lab, about 100 to 200 eggs out of 1.000 manage to reach adulthood.
The Hine’s Emerald Dragonflies were first spotted in Ohio, the species was believed to have gone extinct before we reached the mid 1990s, and was officially declared endanger in 1995. But researchers were lucky enough to find and capture a rare specimen in southwest of Chicago, back in 1998.
Professor Soluk also shared another reason for why specimens find it hard to survive into the wild. Since most of them have almost the same identical genetic make-up, even a large batch of eggs can drastically diminish as they would all struggle to fight off the same disease. Change in conditions in the surrounding environment also poses a threat.
Endangered species experts inform that there are somewhere between 80 and 320 members of the Hine’s Emerald Dragonflies that fly around Illinois on a yearly basis.
Nature Conservancy, an environmental group, has also spent the past several years actively working to preserve the Hine’s Emerald Dragonflies in Wisconsin. The state’s wetlands and coastal springs make for a welcoming habitat for the flying creatures as they draw in small insects that the dragonflies feed on – gnats, mosquitoes and biting flies.
Mike Grimm, an ecologist from Nature Conservancy, gave a statement of his own, saying that a small creature such as a butterfly or a dragonfly does not have a great deal of economic value and we’d likely never know it if they were to go extinct. However, he stressed that they are a part of nature’s beauty and that people have an obligation to make sure that future generations will also experience a versatile Earth.
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