Almost 160 years since they last flapped their wings in the Ottoman Empire, a group of butterflies are heading back to the Middle East.
Oxford University’s Natural History Museum has donated a box of the fluttering insects to Tel Aviv University’s Steinhardt Museum after they were uncovered by an Israeli entomologist.
Dubi Binyamini, president of the Butterfly Association in Israel, travelled to England to research the large “False Apollo” variety.
On a visit to the Oxford museum, he discovered an item that had been collected on two trips to an area now in Israel from 1863 to 1865.
The visits, led by clergymen Henry Baker Tristram and Octavius Picard-Cambridge respectively, gathered local animals, birds, molluscs and spiders.
Until Binyamini’s discovery, the Jerusalem Post reported, the items had sat in the natural history museum’s archives undetected.
The butterflies were presented by the military attaché of the British Embassy in Israel (Photo: The Steinhardt Museum of Natural History)
Having searched the museum's collections, he discovered a total of 113 specimens representing 51 different butterfly species.
After he finished his research, the UK museum donated one box of insects to Tel Aviv’s Steinhardt Museum.
The butterflies were presented to the institution’s chair, professor Tamar Dayan, by Binyamini and Colonel Joe Burgon, the military attaché of the British Embassy in Israel.
The gift follows Israel’s adoption of a distinctive blue and white butterfly as a national symbol to mark the nation’s 75th anniversary.
The insect was picked via a vote that included tens of thousands of schoolchildren and members of the public and beat 139 other varieties in the process.
The Steinhardt Museum collections include around six million items that document the natural history of the eastern Mediterranean, alongside the development of the human species.