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The Shannon Butterfly Collection

Ray Shannon was a war veteran and collector with a passion for exotic butterflies. In a generous move he donated his entire collection and funds to Auckland Museum in 2008. 

He started collecting butterflies while stationed in the Solomon Islands during the Second World War, and built up his collection to 13,000 specimens - mostly from Australasia, South East Asia, and South America.

John Early, Auckland Museum Curator Entomology, first met Ray in the 1990s and is now managing this astonishingly beautiful collection.

The income from Ray Shannon’s estate has allowed the specimens to be scientifically classified and properly stored by Collection Technician Rosemary Gilbert.  

The Museum is now home to a stunning display of exquisitely-coloured butterflies which is also an invaluable resource for identifying protected species. One particular specimen, papilio sinoprinceps benguetana, is on the CITES list (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species), which controls the importation of butterflies that are in danger of becoming extinct.  When contacted by border control, Rosemary can check the sample against the collection to see if the butterfly in question is an endangered species.

The generosity of Ray Shannon is threefold in that he has made available a beautiful collection to be enjoyed by generations to come, provided funding to ensure this collection is properly stored and classified and enabled a reference source for a worldwide audience.