Sabah’s State Butterfly: The Rare and Elusive Kinabalu Birdwing Butterfly


KOTA KINABALU, 2 October 2023 – The Sabah State Government is proud to announce a  significant event that marks a milestone in the conservation and promotion of our rich biodiversity. Yang Berhormat Datuk Christina Liew, Sabah’s Minister of Tourism, Culture & Environment (KePKAS), launched the Sabah State Butterfly: The Kinabalu Birdwing during a press conference at The Pavilion of Shangri-la’s Tanjung Aru Resort & Spa. 


The main purpose of this event is to officially unveil and launch the Kinabalu Birdwing  (scientifically known as Troides andromache) as Sabah’s State butterfly. Acknowledging the  Kinabalu Birdwing Butterfly as Sabah’s State butterfly as well as the symbol of its rich biodiversity is expected to offer several advantages. These include establishing a new tourism icon for Sabah and highlighting Sabah’s status as a hub of insect mega-diversity. 


This unique and endemic butterfly species resides within the montane regions of Mount Kinabalu and Crocker Range. Since its discovery around 1892, it has remained elusive because it lives at  elevations between 1000 to 2000 feet above sea level. This distinctive characteristic has piqued the interest of entomologists, especially those from abroad, and collectors worldwide have been captivated by this birdwing species for over two centuries. 


Also recognised as the Borneo Birdwing, this large butterfly boasts a wingspan of about 60 mm to 70 mm. Males display a combination of black, yellow, and grey hues, while females feature additional brown and white patterns on their wings. These unique characteristics, along with its ecological significance, make it a remarkable species. 


According to YB Datuk Christina, the Kinabalu Birdwing butterfly is “exquisite and rare”, as  confirmed by Dr. Stephen Sutton, the leading researcher of the Kinabalu Birdwing Project.  “Moreover, it is seldom encountered and challenging to capture. Unfortunately, habitat destruction has led to its classification as ‘Vulnerable’ to extinction on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List. It is categorised as a protected animal under Part I of Schedule 2 of the Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997. Consequently, nominating this species for recognition will not only help protect it but also draw attention to the broader efforts to conserve biodiversity in Sabah, as safeguarding this species will indirectly contribute to the preservation of  its habitat”, she added.


The Sabah State Cabinet approved the proposal to declare the Kinabalu Birdwing as the State  butterfly and also on its local name “Kalibambang Emas”. The name is derived from the local  ethnic language and signifies a big and brightly coloured butterfly.