b-fly releases at events

Neil Jones Neil at nwjones.demon.co.uk
Wed Sep 22 16:44:57 EDT 1999

"Wise Use" anti-conservation propagandist Paul Cherubini wrote:

>Mike Smith  wrote:
> Both
> NABA and the Lep Society have been trying very hard to stop the releasing of
> butterflies at ceremonies.  It is a well intended but potentially detrimental
> practice
> Given that Wisconsin already has millions of Monarchs and Painted
> Ladies, how could a few dozen or few hundred or even a few thousand
> released at a ceremony or by school children be "potentially
> detrimental"?  
> Yes, there are some high profile zero risk extremists in NABA and the
> Lep Society (Glassberg, Pyle, Opler, Tuttle) who feel ANY potential risk
> involved with releases is unacceptable.
> Paul Cherubini, Placerville, California

(Some people will already be aware that the pro-release lobby tends
to be made up of "patriots", "Black Helicopter theorists" and Anti-conservation
ists. We have already seen some of them in action. However I think people
should be made aware of this individual.) 

This demonstrates an interesting point and it is one that propagandists
like Mr Cherubini constantly use. These respected knowledgable intelligent
experts are all "extremists". The fact is that Mr. Cherubini is
an anti-conservationist with a strong financial interest in promoting
anti-conservation ideas.

I have most often encountered him on the monarch list Dplex-l.
Dplex-l used to be a pleasant place in cyberspace. It was a good place
to find out about the latest discoveries about monarchs. It was particularly
pleasing to see that noted scientists were posting on the list. These were
names that I, someone living thousands of miles away, recognised as well
known experts in biology. It was always a pleasure to learn of some little
detail of butterfly ecology that they might post there.

Then Mr. Cherubini started with his wierd conspiracy theories. 
These scientists were engaged in a massive fraud, duping us all for 
their own financial gain. Faking data in order to obtain money
from an unsuspecting public.

Sadly, and much to Dplex-l's detriment, the frequency of postings from
these highly intelligent people has diminished. Busy people, bullied by Mr.
Cherubini's defamatory allegations they have chosen to spend their
time elsewhere. To respond to his vitriol would only endanger their
reputations, and perhaps give credance to what in reality were
only the demonising delusions of a dabbling dilettante.

We now see this tactic being repeated here. These scientists are
extremists out for their own ends.  It is of course complete nonsense.

I include below a posting from Bob Pyle. For those who are not from
North America, Bob is one of the leading figures in American entomology
an expert of world renown. I recently met him at an international
conference on butterfly ecology held at Oxford. He was invited especially
to talk about his work with Monarch butterflies. He is a conservationist
and a good one. Naturally he attracts attacks from a fervent
anti-conservationist like Mr Cherubini.
However let us look at what Bob Pyle has to say. There is an interesting
revelation in his posting about Mr Cherubini. He is collecting
large numbers of WILD monarchs for COMMERCIAL GAIN. A fact that he is
none to keen to divulge when attacking those who seek to defend science
and conservation. 

Paul and Friends,

This is in brief reply to Cherubini's recent attempts to discredit what I
have to say.  I understand his attacks have also appeared on lep and monarch
list-servers, so if anyone wishes to post my comments, they may do so.

First, Paul, thanks for sending out portions of Sy Montgomery's Boston Globe
article on "Chasing Monarchs."  It was a fine piece.  Your subject line --
"Fear mongering propaganda - sells books!" -- nicely circumscribes the
quality and level of your rhetoric.

Second, concerning the genetic arguments against transfers:  The quote from
the NABA letter that you ascribe to me was written by Jeff Glassberg.  You
refer to "NABA leaders Dr. Bob Pyle, Dr. Paul Opler, & Dr. Jeff Glassberg"
and "their web site and...their Journal: American Butterflies," but my only
affiliation with NABA is as a member.  Paul Opler and I did sign the letter
expressing our strong concern about releases for various reasons, along with
the president of the Lepidopterists' Society, Jim Tuttle.  I continue to
support the letter in essence, though I would have worded parts of it
differently, and I reiterate my view that the genetic argument is less
certain or compelling than disease transmission and biogeographic damage.
The fact is, we do not know how monarchs released far from their natal point
will behave, and opinions may well differ.  As I've made clear in the book
and elsewhere, and as Lincoln has often concurred, we do not know what any
genetic consequences of mixing populations might be.  Only a few DNA markers
have been tested, by Andy Brower et al.  In the absence of knowledge, the
sensible thing to do is to err on the conservative side.  As the European
Union put it when banning imports of hormone-treated US beef: "Where
scientific evidence is not black and white, policy should err on the side of
caution so that there is zero risk to the consumer."  I feel the same policy
should apply when considering even remotely possible threats to an
endangered phenomenon such as the North American migratory monarch.  
As you well know, my primary issue with releases is their mischief for the
distributional data base.  For example: yesterday, in Seattle, I observed a
fresh male monarch nectaring on a Buddleia -- in a season when the richest
Washington habitats have produced only a few monarchs.  It would have been
desirable to know whether that monarch had arrived in that situation, a
hundred miles + beyond any indigenous milkweed stands and several miles from
any adventitious railyard stands I am aware of.  But of course we cannot
know that, ever, because monarchs have been released at weddings in Seattle
this season.  That constitutes scientific vandalism.  Your unseemly and
utterly disingenuous efforts to discredit my views aside, profound problems
DO attend monarch transfers and releases in the West, my region of some

As for you, Paul, I am astonished that anyone could post messages about the
much-reduced population of monarchs in California this year, yet continue to
collect large numbers of them for commercial sale to release at events.
This is another objection to releases -- that they promote such gross rascalry.

Although I thanked you for your contribution in the acknowledgments, you
have been the one sour voice among a ringing chorus of congratulations for
my book.  Collegial criticism and argument, which I welcome and respect, is
one thing.  Scurrilous misrepresentation and derogation is quite another.
You are not a gentleman, Paul.  If you are to remain on the Monarch Program
Board, I shall be obliged to drop off.  I cannot serve with a toxic rogue
such as yourself.  I have worked with butterflies and lepidopterists for
forty years because of the pleasure they bring, and I believe this applies
to most lepidopterists.  I like to give something back through conservation.
I take no enjoyment or satisfaction, however, in the company of scoundrels.

Robert M. Pyle    

Neil Jones- Neil at nwjones.demon.co.uk http://www.nwjones.demon.co.uk/
"At some point I had to stand up and be counted. Who speaks for the
butterflies?" Andrew Lees - The quotation on his memorial at Crymlyn Bog
National Nature Reserve

More information about the Leps-l mailing list