The endangered El Segundo Blue butterfly appears to be flourishing in its 200-acre habitat near Los Angeles International Airport, according to airport officials.

A recently completed seasonal field study of the Dunes Restoration Project and analysis of the El Segundo Blue butterfly found an estimated population between 111,562 and 116,474, an increase of approximately 30 percent since 2009, airport officials said. The population count was conducted by consulting entomologist Dr. Richard Arnold.

“The present count has increased remarkably from the fewer than 500 El Segundo Blue butterflies that existed in 1976 when it became the first insect to be listed as a federal endangered species,” said Robert Freeman, environmental services manager for Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA), the city department that owns and operates LAX.

To encourage the butterfly’s comeback, LAWA created the Dunes Restoration Project to focus on reintroducing and protecting the coastal buckwheat plant, the butterfly’s sole food source, airport officials noted.

After expanding the butterfly’s habitat to its current 200 acres, the airport department then established ongoing management programs, which officials credit for increasing the butterfly population.

The active flight season of the El Segundo Blue is only a couple of months beginning in mid-June.

The LAX Dunes Restoration Project was initiated in 1986, after airport officials conducted a careful study of the property and consulted with environmental experts. The preserve is now home to more than 1,000 species of plants and animals, in addition to the El Segundo Blue butterfly, and 43 acres of virtually undisturbed original native dunes habitat.

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