Conservationists to spend £1m in bid to save endangered butterflies

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The Independent Online

Nearly a million pounds is to be spent on a last-ditch effort to save three of Britain's most rapidly declining butterflies.

The project to help the pearl-bordered and small pearl-bordered fritillary and the Duke of Burgundy butterflies, all at severe risk of dying out in southern England, is the most expensive butterfly conservation effort ever in the UK.

It is aimed at restoring the proper woodland management that the three species depend on. All need sunny rides and glades to allow their food plants to flourish - violets for the fritillaries and primroses for the Duke of Burgundy.

The dying-out of traditional management practices, such as coppicing (which thins out trees and lets in light) has been a principal reason for their decline, and the new project is aimed at encouraging woodland owners to take their woods in hand.

Launched today by the charity Butterfly Conservation, at the start of its annual Save Our Butterflies week, the South East Woodlands Project is using three woodland landscapes to demonstrate how correct management can reverse wildlife declines.

They are at Rother Woods, near Rye in East Sussex; at Denge Woods, near Canterbury in Kent; and at Tytherley Woods, on the Hampshire/Wiltshire border. The three-year scheme is being made possible by a £289,000 Heritage Lottery Fund grant and £200,000 from the Tubney Charitable Trust. Total funding for the project will be close to £1m.

"These are now three of Britain's rarest butterflies," said Martin Warren, Butterfly Conservation's director. "They were once very widespread but they have now been largely lost."

Dr Warren said he hoped the project would benefit other woodland butterflies such as the heath fritillary and the silver-washed fritillary.

"We want to show woodland owners what can be achieved and how they can help butterflies and other wildlife," said the project manager, Dr Dan Hoare. "We'll be involving the public in a big way so that they will be able to press for good woodland management ... During Save Our Butterflies Week, Butterfly Conservation's 32 branches are organising events across the country ... And six celebrities are each sponsoring one of the more common and popular UK butterflies as part of an attempt to discover the nation's favourite butterfly."

Kate Humble of Springwatch is backing the peacock; Alan Titchmarsh the red admiral; the actress Thelma Barlow the painted lady; the television presenter Chris Packham the brimstone; naturalist Nick Baker the comma, while the television presenter Miranda Krestovnikoff is backing the holly blue. The public can vote at www.butterfly-conservation.org

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