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NEWS RELEASE No: 1465725 MAY 2011

Pioneering butterfly project takes off in Sussex

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Pearl bordered fritillaries mating at Abbots Wood

A pioneering butterfly reintroduction project at Abbots Wood, East Sussex, by the Forestry Commission is to benefit butterfly conservation nationwide.

One of the rarest butterflies in the UK, the Pearl-bordered Fritillary, named because of the white 'pearls' on the edge of its hindwing, has taken flight in record numbers this year following its reintroduction in 2004.  Previously extinct in this wood it is now one of the best sites in the country.

Last year 250 Pearl-bordered Fritillary were seen at Abbots Wood, the highest count in the South East for more than a decade, which put it among the top 10 sites nationally.  This year 628 have been recorded along woodland corridors, pathways and open spaces from the heart of the forest to the outer edges.

Stuart Sutton, wildlife ranger at the Forestry Commission, said:

"The success this year in part has been down to the good weather, which has benefited butterflies nationwide.  However the general trend in many other locations is that the Pearl-bordered Fritillary has been in decline, other reintroduction projects have failed time and time again and the species has been hanging on a knife-edge. 

“We are thrilled that every year we have seen an increase in numbers here at Abbots Wood but this year the population has grown beyond our wildest expectations. The butterflies have really taken advantage of our carefully targeted management of the forest landscape and tree felling, which provides sustainable timber for British industry as well as open warm and sunny areas for feeding and breeding butterflies.”

Dan Hoare, Senior Regional Officer for Butterfly Conservation in South East England, said:

“This is a pioneering conservation project by the Forestry Commission, which is helping to secure the future of this woodland butterfly at a national level.  The meticulous records of how the Forestry Commission has achieved this success is an exemplar model for future reintroductions and other butterfly conservation projects across the country.”

The ever changing mosaic of open space within the woodland that islinked by the internal corridors along forest roads and rides provides warm and dry conditions necessary for butterfly larvae to grow and an ample source of flowers and nectar during the summer months.

Once considered to be a flagship species of British woodland, the Pearl-bordered Fritillary used to be widespread and abundant in the woodlands of Southern England, following the trail of the woodcutter's axe.  There are now only a handful of sites across the region where the butterfly remains.

Notes to Editors

  1. Forestry Commission England's mission is to protect and expand England's forests and woodlands and increase their value to society and the environment. Further details for the Forestry Commission and its work can be viewed at:

  2. The Forestry Commission in South East England manage some 22,000 hectares of forest and woodland including a network of nationally important wildlife sites and part of the European designated Thames Basin Heaths Special Protection Area. 33 forest blocks on the public forest estate in South East England have been identified as being 'priority' sites for butterflies and moths.

  3. Lepidoptera on Forestry Commission Land in England Conservation Strategy 2007 - 2017: this conservation strategy is an agreement between Forestry Commission England and Butterfly Conservation. Forestry Commission England has agreed to manage the Public Forest Estate to encourage and support butterflies and moths and in turn Butterfly Conservation will monitor species populations and provide encouragement, management advice and support.

  4. Both organisations will strive towards achieving favourable conservation status and butterflies and moths identified in the Strategy across the Priority Sites on the Forestry Commission England Estate. A network of priority sites have been identified where conservation effort can be targeted over the 10-year duration of the strategy. Further details of the joint strategy can be found via the link below:$FILE/fce-butterfly-conservation-flyer.pdf

  5. The Pearl-bordered Fritillary was once widespread in Britain, but has been lost from much of central and southern England and continues to decline across its range, largely due to the abandonment of traditional woodland management. Its population has declined by more than 70% over the last thirty years, and it is a Priority Species for conservation action under the UK Biodiversity Action Plan.

  6. Butterfly Conservation is the largest insect conservation charity in Europe with nearly 15,000 members in the UK. Its aim is the conservation of butterflies, moths and their habitats. It runs conservation programmes on over 60 threatened species of butterfly and moth and manages over 30 nature reserves. Further information

Media Contact
Jo Spouncer, PR contact, Forestry Commission South East England
T: 01483 326265 M: 07828 762045 E: