A new species of moth that was found during the BioBlitz at the threatened Denniston Plateau will be named after a Hollywood blockbuster that has a strong environmental message.
Arctesthes avatar, or the Avatar moth, was discovered by scientist Brian Patrick and caught by his son Hamish during the species scavenger hunt on the West Coast’s Denniston Plateau in March.
Brian, Hamish and Forest & Bird held a naming competition for the moth, to raise public awareness about the plans to mine on the Denniston Plateau where the new species was found.
The father and son duo judged the winner from nearly 100 entries and Brian said the Avatar moth was a clear winner.
“It was by far the best one. It’s a novel name and the movie is about a mining company that threatens to devastate a human-like species that’s living in harmony with nature. It’s just a really good analogy.”
The movie’s story is similar to the real life threat that Denniston faces.
The environmentally unique plateau is being threatened by Australian mining company Bathurs Resources, which plans to turn the area into an open-cast coal mine.
If it goes ahead, it would be the country’s largest open-cast mine on public conservation land, and would destroy many plant, bird and insect populations.
Forest & Bird is appealing the consents and is working to save the plateau by having it made into a reserve.
The Avatar moth is just one of the finds during the BioBlitz weekend, in which 150 volunteers and scientists scoured the plateau in search of unusual plants and animals.
Forest & Bird Top of the South Field Officer Debs Martin says discovering the new species shows how importance it is to protect the plateau and its inhabitants from coal mining.
“All the scientists agree that the plateau harbours life, especially little life, that is either not known or is relatively uncommon elsewhere. Denniston Plateau provides a mainland island habitat that we’re only just discovering,” she says.