Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0002262, Sun, 3 Aug 1997 16:05:37 -0700

Butterflies (fwd)
EDITOR'S NOTE. Thanks to Galya Diment <galya@u.washington.edu>, who noted
this story. It is my hazy recollection that in the "VN Butterfly" volume
that Brian Boyd and Robert Pyle are preparing, there is, somewhere in VN's
correspondence, reference to a permit for collecting in National Parks.
Mr. Teobaldelli seems to have been collecting in some of VN's former
locations. A pity the National Park people didn't ask him about Nabokov
Authorities Net Butterfly Poacher at National Park

By William Claiborne
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, August 2, 1997; Page A04
The Washington Post

LOS ANGELES. When Adriano Teobaldelli was arrested in Sequoia National
Park last month, he was furtively trying to hide a butterfly net behind
his back. A box with 51 dead butterflies made it clear this was no
absent-minded butterfly fancier out in the wilderness in search of
beauteous, winged insects.

Teobaldelli, 60, in fact, is a butterfly poacher and on Monday he pleaded
to charges of netting hundreds of butterflies in parks in California,
Nevada, Utah and Colorado, underscoring a dark side of entomology that
authorities say is increasingly threatening rare or endangered species of
insects across the country.

According to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials, there is a growing
trade in legally protected butterflies, some of which sell for up to $500
a pair. And while the lawyer for Teobaldelli, who paid a $500 fine and
flew home to Italy, sarcastically commented that the U.S. Park Service had
cracked a butterfly kidnapping conspiracy, officials say the case is no
laughing matter.

Teobaldelli, who told authorities he is a hospital administrator and
amateur butterfly collector, was arrested last Saturday in Sequoia's
Halstead Meadows by Scott Wanek, who said that as he approached the
suspect he tried to hide a large butterfly net behind his back. In
addition to the box with 51 dead butterflies, rangers armed with a search
warrant found 200 more in Teobaldelli's motel room that they said he
admitted capturing in other parks, including Bryce Canyon, Arches and
Canyonlands parks in Utah and Mesa Verde in Colorado.

Some entomologists are wary of adding rare insects to endangered species
lists because, they say, it increases their value to collectors and often
results in a run on the species once the lists are published.

Authorities said Teobaldelli's butterflies were in labeled cellophane bags
and were accompanied by meticulous notes specifying when and where they
were caught, documentation that Klinger said is crucial to the trading and
selling of butterflies because it enhances their value.

"Of course, it also makes it easier to prosecute," Klinger added. Stephen
A. Oberholtzer, a Fish and Wildlife special agent, said Teobaldelli
admitted he had caught the butterflies and said he planned to trade some
of them with other collectors.

But special agents who cracked an international ring of butterfly poachers
in San Francisco two years ago and helped convict three men involved in
it, including a pest exterminator known by his co-workers as "Bugman,"
said that illegal butterfly traffickers often pose as legitimate
collectors while poaching valuable species and selling them at a large

Teobaldelli was charged under the Lacey Act, which makes violation of
state wildlife laws a federal crime when it involves interstate transport
of wildlife species. Klinger said that while it was not known to what
extent, if any, the Italian was selling his butterflies to collectors,
"there seems to be a pattern of calculation there that would lead us to
believe that this is not an idle avocation."

He said the law was enacted to "preserve the national treasure of
wildlife" and prevent poachers from trafficking in rare species whether or
not they are serious collectors. "This case was unique because he
[Teobaldelli] was going around to specific national parks and targeting
the repositories of native wildlife of this country. That gives us even
greater pause, because we do know that collectors put a high value on
certain species of butterflies," Klinger said.