Attenborough announces Butterfly Survival Zones

17 July 2008

Sir David Attenborough announced a butterfly conservation campaign today at the Natural History Museum's Amazing Butterflies exhibition.

The new national strategy will use 20 Butterfly Survival Zones as places to focus on saving Britain's rarest butterflies from possible extinction.

'Almost unbelievably,' says Sir David, 'much of Britain's countryside is a no-go area for many favourite butterflies'.

'Habitat has been ploughed up or become overgrown. Anybody who's been for a country walk recently will tell you butterflies are a rarity. Scientists fear that in some areas we're entering a post-butterfly era.'

Save Our Butterflies Week

This is the biggest campaign yet from the charity Butterfly Conservation and coincides with its 40th anniversary and their Save Our Butterflies Week that runs from 19-26 July.

'Butterflies may be tiny, but to save them you have think big,' says Butterfly Conservation Chief Executive Dr Martin Warren. 'A small colony of butterflies is always vulnerable. A vast chain of habitats is needed to let them spread and establish new colonies.'

Working with landowners

Butterfly Conservation is talking to hundreds of landowners and plans to talk to thousands more over coming years. 'They'll be urged to use Government grants to restore habitat on farms and estates in the 20 zones,' says Dr Warren. 'The aim is to achieve entire landscapes with suitable habitat.'

Threatened species

Many butterfly species are threatened with extinction in the UK. Population numbers have seriously declined because their habitat has changed or been destroyed.

Butterfly Conservation has fact sheets for 17 priority species, such as the silver-studded blue, white-letter hairstreak and the grizzled skipper, with information about life cycles, population numbers and how to manage their habitats.

Butterfly Survival Zones

The 20 Butterfly Survival Zones vary from the Highlands in Perthshire, Dorset Downs, New Forest, The Cotswolds and The Chilterns.

Butterfly Conservation has already successfully trialled the landscape approach. The rare Marsh Fritillary is making a comeback on Dartmoor as the result of work being carried out there.

Dr Warren concludes that 'butterfly numbers are still declining at an alarming rate, but we have proved that we can reverse declines when we intervene. That means involving thousands of people to ensure farming and butterflies can co-exist.'