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Rare butterfly rises again

A threatened butterfly has bounced back after last year's bad weather to increase its numbers at one of the best sites for the species in Europe, the Wildlife Trusts said yesterday.

Last year populations of the large blue butterfly fell at Green Down nature reserve, managed by the Somerset Wildlife Trust, as a result of a spring drought and poor weather during the flight period.

But this year more than 3,000 butterflies took flight in June at the site, which was recently chosen as one of 20 Butterfly Survival Zones in a bid to save the country's rarest species.

The Somerset Wildlife Trust said the site had become one of the best in Europe for the large blue since the species was reintroduced to the reserve in 1992.

The large blue butterfly became extinct in the UK in 1979 and has since been reintroduced in south west England.

It is considered to be globally threatened, as a result of loss and bad management of its habitat, and is one of a number of species prioritised for conservation action under the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP).

The population at Green Down, a small and fragile site which has to be closed to the public during the flight period, has been used as a donor site for further re-introductions in the area.

The butterfly's numbers have been boosted by local farmer James Stratton who uses his Dorset horn sheep and ruby red Devon cattle to graze the site in a way which help the reserve's wildlife.