The Ramsgate Butterfly Valley Mvutshini Valley
(Place of the hippo)

"Butterflies have no boundaries and are free to go anywhere they please - Wherever there may be a host plant - eventually there will be the butterfly - who's host plant it is". Dr. DA Swanepoel 1969

Mvutshini Valley also known as The Butterfly Valley Conservancy

Introduction The four-kilometre Mvutshini Valley is the located on the KwaZulu-Natal South Coast. The official name of this valley is 'Mvutshini', which means 'place of the hippo'. It is commonly known as the 'Little Ibilanhlolo or 'Little Billy'. It is also now being informally called 'Butterfly Valley'. This valley has an unusual ecosystem consisting of several sub-ecosystems and ends in an estuary. Its uniqueness must be preserved, not only to ensure the survival of its ecosystem, but also for the future success and prosperity of the community. There is little indigenous forest left in Kawzulu-Natal; the parts that we see represent just one-tenth of the original forests. This too is in danger and is slowly being destroyed. It is up to us to ensure that this precious forest is preserved and free of the danger of annihilation.

For the last three years, much effort has gone into facilitating the preservation of the virgin forest and butterflies found in Mvutshini Valley and gaining the consent of the landowners for this process. It is vital to protect the forest of this valley for its unique ecology and the secrets that lie within.

Our intentions are manifold. We aim to:

  • Ensure that the valley remains untouched by discouraging further development.
  • Enlist the support of the landowners to attain our aims.
  • Ensure the continued existence and preservation of the ecosystem.
  • Conduct a scientific study of butterflies in this valley.
  • Ensure the conservation of all butterfly species and other creatures found in this valley.

Preservation of this valley will not only guarantee the conservation of its natural resources, but will also promote tourism and enhance economic and community development. Intact, this valley is indubitably, an asset to the community and can serve as a great tourist attraction. With its 180 butterflies species, 111 birds species (including eagles), 112 other insect species, reptiles, 78 tree species and 7 grass species, fish, frogs, dragonflies, wildflowers, et cetera its educational value is indisputable. A tour of this valley is an edifying experience indeed. The landowners have welcomed the idea of hiking trails throughout the valley so that these wonders of nature can be observed by the local community and tourists alike. Also, it should act as a model for the training of tour guides, educating municipal employees on the difference between alien and indigenous plants for eradication programs, trail making and other related employment opportunities.

To stand on the Little Ibilanhlolo bridge, on Marine Drive, Looking east to the sea -with dense costal bush on either side – and then west, up the valley, again to see natural vegetation is very satisfying indeed; this is what indeed, draws our South African visitors and particularly our international tourists to KZN. Surely a few more rate-payers on the municipality books cannot even come close to the long-term revenue the indigenous treasure we have here can offer.

This document contains the lists compiled by various experts, on the different species of fauna and flora that inhabit this valley. The research is ongoing and more lists are in the process of being compiled.

An aerial view of Mvutshini Valley (above) clearly shows the extent of the developments that have taken place over the years and the parts of the forest that remain intact.


  • Years ago pristine forest was removed from this area for farming purposes – right up to the edge of the Mvutshini River.
  • Consists of hillside grassland which a number of butterflies, grasses, wild flowers, birds, amphibians and other insect species inhabit. Of particular interest is the butterfly species Durbania amakosa amakosa f. albescens (figure 1) which is one of South Africa 's red data listed butterflies. They are extremely rare and face possible extinction.
  • Durbania amakosa amakosa f. albescens
  • Home to Appiais sabina phoebe
  • Home to Eurytela vashti vashti

Durbania amakosa amakosa f. albescens
Durbania amakosa amakosa f. albescens which is one of South Africa's red data listed butterflies. They are extremely rare and face possible extinction.

Appiais sabina phoebe
This butterfly also appears on the red data list of endangered butterflies. It was last seen in 1927 somewhere along the South Coast. On 12 April 2001it was rediscovered in the Mvutshini Valley. Since then, it has been regularly spotted flying in the dense forest area along the river. It has been described by experts such as Graham Henning and Adrian Armstrong as a find of major importance. No other record exists of this butterfly being found elsewhere since 1927.

Eurytela haibas f. vashti

This butterfly was discovered shortly after the Appias sabina phoebe. C.B.I.S.A believes it to be a new species. It breeds on stinging nettle and flies only in the dense forest along the Mvutshini River. It is only here, in the Mvutshini Forest, that a strong colony of this butterfly has been found.

We are presently liaising with the British Museum in London for the verification of this butterfly as a new species and are conducting a scientific study on this butterfly, which will take up to a year to complete.

What would happen should any part of the ecosystem of this valley be destroyed?

The environment of the valley is a peaceful one and many comments have been made regarding this tranquillity and unique biosphere present. People have come back here time and time again to feel a unity with the natural surroundings, and witness the many miracles provided by the various ecosystems the valley offers so freely for the pleasure and teaching of people of all ages. Our tour guides assist the visitors and guide them through the valley unlocking the secrets of nature.

Looking at the aerial photo (page 3), you will see that there is a natural estuary in this valley. This has its own unique ecosystem. The map on in order to maintain the balance of the ecology of this estuary, this valley cannot in any part be further destroyed or developed. Areas marked 1 and 2 (map on opposite page) have been partly cleared of natural vegetation. This will have a huge impact on the future existence and survival of many creatures that inhabit the estuary and other parts of the valley. The estuary is essential to a pair of otters and a small family of tree dassie found occupying the river and riverbanks. The valley also has a small population of blue duikers that depend on the water supply from the estuary and the natural indigenous vegetation for food and shelter.

Development, exploitation and destruction to any part of the region, will destroy not only the immediate area but also negatively affect the rest of the valley, simply by reducing the habitat of the small creatures found there. Even destroying just part of this area will disrupt its ecological balance and could eradicate the entire population of a particular species belonging to this ecological community – especially one that is very localised and territorial to this valley.

The map on inside front cover shows the valley and the development that has taken place around it. While we acknowledge that tourism and development play essential roles in the economy of the South Coast, we assert that destruction to any part of this ecosystem will drastically reduce its tourist value and impact, and therefore its contribution to the economic and community development.

The 'Butterfly Valley' has already acquired fame throughout South Africa through the media, in many newspaper articles, popular magazines and television shows like 50/50. In addition, the majority of landowners have pledged their support to establish the valley as a conservancy. Unfortunately, this is a lengthy process and we are concerned with the fact that part of the ecosystem is being destroyed in the meantime, by landowners that have development interest.

Click here for the following scientific research lists;

Bird list of Mvutshini Valley

Butterfly Host Plant List

Butterfly List of Mvutshini Valley

Butterfly Sanctuary of Mvutshini Valley

EIA of Mvutshini Valley

Fish List of Mvutshini Valley

Grass List of Mvutshini Valley

Land Owners of Mvutshini Valley

List of other Insects of Mvatshini Valley

Petition of Mvutshini Valley

WESSA Environmental Working Group of Mvutshini Valley

Woody Plants of Mvutshini Valley

How can you help a Project like Mvushini Valley

Relocation of Butterflies into New Areas around Cities and Towns

Relocation of Host Plants into New Areas around Cities and Towns

Support a Mini Nature Home environment in your own Garden

Latest Update

The launching of the Ramsgate Butterfly Sanctuary took place in 2001 and was opened to the general public in 2002. In attendance was the media - newspapers; Daily News, Herald, The Fever, Die Beeld, The Citizen and others - TV - 50/50 and radio station East Coast Radio. Throughout the day of the opening - 14th January 2002- it was visited by 427 members of the public. The Ramsgate Butterfly Sanctuary ran for a good six years until October, 2008 under the supervision of Conservation of Butterflies in South Africa (CBISA) and the South African Butterfly Breeding Association (SABBA). Through the years of operation it was discovered that the present layout was not suitable for a Butterfly Sanctuary and that the changes that would have to be made would be rather expensive. (CBISA) and (SABBA) as a whole were not prepared to invest this kind of capital on leased land. The decision was made to end occupation of the leased land and to acquire land that is more favorable in the same area. All parties concerned agreed and (CBISA) and (SABBA) vacated the premises in August, 2008. It has since changed hands and its name was changed.


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From Our Gallery

Welcome to S.A Butterflies

A place for rare butterflies to be and to be protected as they are extremely rare. Only a few have ever been caught - but through our breeding program we have been able to breed over one hundred and have released them back into the wild. Thanks to the dedication of a few who cared for their survival - a very rare butterfly - has been described.