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May 16, 2011

Butterflies threatened by conservation budget cuts

by Brian Turner

In 2003 were only eight sightings of the Duke of Cumberland butterfly (see image). In 2010, there were over 1000.

The boost has been put down to focussed conservation efforts.

However, as the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, has been told to slash its budget by 30%, there are fears that recent conservation gains could be unravelled.

While three-quarters of Britain’s 59 butterfly species saw gains in sightings in 2010 over 2009, there has been an overall general decline since monitoring began in 1976.

And key species remain under pressure.

The Lulworth skipper, one of the UK’s rarest butterflies, which only lives in certain areas of the Dorset coast, had its worst year since records began.

And even some of the more common butterflies, such as the Meadow Brown, are also suffering unusually low numbers last year

According to the group Butterfly Conservation, which runs the UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme, overall butterfly numbers continue to decline, but recent conservation efforts have had a positive effect.

Butterfly Conservation is now concerned that budget cuts will reduce money available for conservation projects, causing further problems, not least because half of the UK’s butterfly species are listed as threatened.

Dr Tom Brereton, Head of Monitoring at Butterfly Conservation said, “We can reverse butterfly losses if the effort can be maintained.”

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