Lottery gamblers bet on the survival of a delicate fenland beauty

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One of Britain's largest and rarest butterflies, the swallowtail (right), has been thrown a lifeline by lottery punters.

A pounds 373,500 grant to be awarded today by the Heritage Lottery Fund will help pay for removal of scrub choking the swallowtail's last redoubt in the Norfolk Broads. An flash of yellow veined by purple-black, it is the country's biggest butterfly, with a wingspan of up to five inches.

The lottery money will help the Norfolk Wildlife Trust enhance the swallowtail's habitat and improve public access at its national nature reserve, Hickling Broad. Other creatures should also benefit, including bitterns and otters. The swallowtail's decline has paralleled that of the reedbed as a source of roofing material. When the fens were harvested for reeds for thatching roofs, the milk parsley, on which the swallowtail's caterpillars depend, prospered.

The trust hopes that by removing the invading growth and cutting the reeds, the nationally scarce milk parsley will spread again.

Photograph: Tom Pilston

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