Last flight of our endangered butterflies: Native species being forced from their natural habitats

Neil Jones neil at
Fri Nov 12 04:07:44 EST 2010

  Last flight of our endangered butterflies: Native species being forced
  from their natural habitats

By David Derbyshire 
Last updated at 9:30 PM on 11th November 2010

Some of our most beautiful and popular butterflies could vanish from the 
countryside within years, experts warn.

Thirty-seven per cent of native species are either under threat of 
extinction or have already died out, a study shows.

They have been so badly hit by the rise of intensive farming and loss of 
habitats that they are now faring worse than any other group of domestic 

As butterflies determine the health of the environment, conservationists 
say their decline affects other wildlife.

The warning came as the Butterfly Conservation charity published a list 
of the 23 species that are endangered or already extinct.

A further 11 of our 72 butterflies are rated as 'near threatened', so 
only about half are considered safe.

The list includes the high brown fritillary, which has seen numbers drop 
by 85 per cent over ten years.


The handsome speckled insect once bred in woods in Wales and the South.

However, it is now found in just 30 small colonies in the South West, 
South Wales and Cumbria. Another endangered species is the large blue. 
It was wiped out in the 1970s, but has been reintroduced to chalky 
hillsides in the South West.

Its caterpillars mimic the scent of red ant grubs to fool worker ants 
into taking them into the nest. Once inside, the caterpillars eat the 
ant grubs.

Butterfly Conservation spokesman Richard Fox said: 'The new Red List 
shows that the number of butterflies in need of help has increased 
dramatically in the past ten years.

'We have seen conservationists bring the large blue back from extinction.

'But there is much more we need to do to secure the future. They are our 

The Red List is based on data collected by thousands of volunteers 
organised by the charity and Centre for Ecology and Hydrology in 

Butterflies suffer from the loss of grasslands rich in wild flowers and 
poorer quality of woodlands. Pesticides and intensive farming are also 
to blame.

According to studies, 21 per cent of dragonfly species, 29 per cent of 
birds and 20 per cent of plants are endangered in the UK.

Research confirms that butterflies are faring worse than dragonflies, 
birds and plants, with 37% of Britain's 59 native species considered 
regionally extinct or threatened.

This compares to 21% of dragonflies, 29% of birds and 20% of plants. A 
further 11 butterfly species are classified as 'near threatened' in the 
new list, leaving fewer than half (45 per cent) of Britain's butterflies 
safe - for now.

The figures are the result of a major re-assessment of the state of 
British butterfly populations using the International Union for 
Conservation of Nature (IUCN) 'red list' approach.

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