Activity Report: 1st Swallowtail & Birdwing Butterfly Race in Singapore

First Swallowtail & Birdwing Butterfly Race in Singapore

Commemorating World Swallowtail Day

29 June 2019

by Anuj Jain & Amy Tsang

The Tailed Jay (Graphium agamemnon agamemnon) by Oakblue team.jpg

The Tailed Jay. Picture by Team Oakblue

The UK’s Swallowtail and Birdwing Butterfly Trust (SBBT) announced the month of June as the inaugural World Swallowtail Month this year to call attention to the fact that, while swallowtails are much-loved, they are often highly threatened, and require strong conservation efforts.  


To celebrate this occasion, the Nature Society (Singapore) [NSS] and Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS) hosted the first Swallowtail and Birdwing Butterfly Race in Singapore on 29 June 2019. The race was flagged off at 8am in Singapore Zoo and ended at 3pm at the Night Safari.  This one-day race saw nine teams (of up to four persons each) race to spot the maximum number of Swallowtail and Birdwing butterfly species in Singapore. They also contested for the ‘Best Photo Of The Day’ award. 


Belonging to the family Papilionidae, there are over 560 Swallowtail and Birdwing species worldwide of which 18 species can be found in Singapore. Four are listed in the Singapore Red Data Book which tracks threatened plants and animals in our island state. 


One threatened Swallowtail, the Common Rose (Pachliopta aristolochiae asteris) was voted the people’s choice for National Butterfly of Singapore back in 2015.  The other species at risk are the Common Birdwing (Troides helena cerberus),  the Common Jay (Graphium doson evemonides)  and the Blue Helen (Papilio prexaspes prexaspes).  

Common Rose  Birdwingers.jpg

A threatened Common Rose feeding on Ixora flowers at Hort Park. Picture by Team BirdWingers

Blue _ Lesser Jay (Graphium evermon eventus), Jayded.jpg

A lone Blue Jay. Picture by Team JAYDED

Views of Nature conservationists 

Dr Shawn Lum, President of NSS said – “Swallowtail butterflies are beautiful and fascinating, they are ecologically important, and, sadly, many need our help. Through this race, we join butterfly lovers and conservationists globally to raise awareness about the importance of conserving swallowtail butterflies, and, by extension, all insects.” 


Dr Cheng Wen Haur, Deputy CEO and Chief Life Sciences Officer, WRS, said, “For years we have strived to ensure Singapore Zoo, Night Safari, and River Safari are conducive for creatures like birds and butterflies to thrive through the careful curation of tropical trees and flowering plants; and we are very pleased to partner with Nature Society (Singapore) to host Singapore’s first Butterfly Race today. These beautiful insects inspire a childlike wonder, and we should all learn to appreciate the important role they play in the natural ecosystems” 


Dr Mark Collins, Chairman of the UK's Swallowtail and Birdwing Butterfly Trust praised the Butterfly Race, “This is just the sort of creative, community-based initiative that can make a difference and get everyone involved in saving species before it’s too late.”

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A mating pair of Common Bluebottles. Picture by Team BIRDWINGERS

Results of the Swallowtail & Birdwing Butterfly Race 

The best photo of the day was awarded to Team Flying Colors for photographing a flying pair of Common Mime butterflies. The runner-up photo went to Team Zevoll for photographing a candid shot of a resting Lime butterfly. Team Jayded was crowned the overall winner for spotting the maximum number (8 species) of Swallowtails and Birdwings. This was followed by the Team Oakblue which recorded 6 species.


  The judges getting ready to tally the results. 

Summary of Results.jpg

Highest No. of Swallowtail/Birdwing Species Sighted and Photographed

Winner: Team JAYDED - 8 out of 18 species

JAYDED team.jpg

Runner-Up: Team OAKBLUE - 6 out of 18 species


Top Photo of the Day

Winner: Team FLYING COLOURS - Pair of Common Mimes in mid-flight.

Common Mime (Chilasa clytia clytia) by Flying Colours.jpg

Runner-Up: Team ZEVOLL - Lime Butterfly in repose

Lime Butterfly3 (Papilio demoleus malayanus), Zevoll copy 2.jpg

Top Photo Submissions


FLYING COLOURS TEAM (Swallowtail & Birdwing Race).jpg

Runner-Up: Team ZEVOLL

ZEVOLL TEAM (Swallowtail & Birdwing Race).jpg


The participants and attendees group photo at the Night Safari where the closing ceremony was held.  


Before closing the event, the kids could experience some live caterpillars and butterflies 


To relive the experience of Singapore's 1st Swallowtail & Birdwing Butterfly Race, read Simon Chan's account here.