Whisper of endangered wings

Tubutubu, the sculpture of the endangered Cape Flats butterfly, at Zandvlei Strandveld Circle.

A sculpture of a critically endangered indigenous butterfly, the Barber’s Cape Flats ranger butterfly, has found a home at the Zandvlei Strandveld Circle.

This garden is a collaboration between FynbosLIFE, the City of Cape Town and Mapula Trust, and it has been steadily growing roots since ground was broken in July last year.

Through FundaFynbos Veld Circles, FynbosLIFE is showing the public how to recreate wildlife habitats in their own gardens, using indigenous flora.

Dr Caitlin von Witt, managing director of FynbosLIFE and a botanical ecologist, said we could all become urban biodiversity custodians and stop the extinction of the precious creatures that call our city home.

Barber’s Cape Flats ranger (Kedestes barberae bunta) is in peril, with only 50-100 individuals left in the wild near Strandfontein.

“This adorable, yet fairly inconspicuous fluffy butterfly is just one of Cape Town’s highly threatened animals,” she said.

Dr Von Witt called Muizenberg artist Angela Mac Pherson and her team incredibly talented for crafting the butterfly, which was commissioned by FynbosLIFE.

“Thank you to Angela and her team: Orland Kavhai, Sean Mac Pherson, Monwabisi Dasi, Joshua Brauer, Thumelo McNiel, Thoriso Kuena, Sarah Sun and LJ Wolfaardt for this work of your hearts, which is highlighting the plight of Cape Town’s threatened lowland wildlife,” she said.

The Zandvlei Trust sponsored the sculpture and information signage.

The sculpture’s name also recognises the ancient language of the Khoi people.

“We have named the sculpted butterfly Tubutubu, which means butterfly in Kora, the language of the Khoi people of the early Cape. ‘Tubu’ means ‘whisper’, and so ‘tubutubu’ refers to the soft whispering of a butterfly’s wings in flight,” Dr Von Witt said.

She said Tubutubu was female (apparent by the tuft at the end of her abdomen), symbolising women’s liberation.

“This tuft protects the ovipositor or egg-laying organ. The pole she is holding onto represents a leaf of spear grass, which is the caterpillars’ primary source of food. The butterflies lay their eggs on the grass, and when the caterpillars hatch they build a refuge by sewing the grass blades together,” she said.

Dr Von Witt said spear grass had been planted at the Strandveld Circle so it could be a future receptor site for the butterflies

More sculptures of Cape Town’s wildlife are planned for other FundaFynbos Veld Circles in the City.

To contribute towards funding any of these artworks, contact caitlin@fynboslife.com

Spreading her wings and the message of her endangered status, Tubutubu the butterfly.
Zandvlei Trust sponsored the sculpture and information signage.