Rare Northamptonshire species set to benefit from new funding

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Funding recently announced from Natural England will benefit a new project to help wildlife in Northamptonshire.

The Threatened Species Recovery for Northamptonshire’s Woodlands project, led by the conservation charity Butterfly Conservation, is one of 63 projects across the country which have been awarded a share of £14.5m by Natural England’s Species Recovery Programme’s new Capital Grant Scheme to help recover 150 species nationwide. The Species Recovery Programme, which has been running for over 30 years, focuses on “bespoke conservation action to reverse the fortunes of our most threatened native species.”

The new project will allow Butterfly Conservation to create and enhance a network of habitats in Rockingham Forest and South Northamptonshire, providing ‘stepping stones’ for key species to expand into new areas and strengthen their populations. These species include three butterflies (Wood White, Grizzled Skipper, and Dingy Skipper), two moths (Concolorous and Liquorice Piercer), and one reptile (Adder).

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In the United Kingdom, the Wood White has declined by 82% since 1979, the Grizzled Skipper has declined by 49% since 1976, and the rare Liquorice Piercer moth has declined by 60% in only 15 years. UK butterflies are undergoing widespread decline. In 1987, 18% of species were classified as Near Threatened, Vulnerable, or worse, but this figure had risen to 52% by 2021.

Grizzled Skipper butterfly – one of the project’s target speciesGrizzled Skipper butterfly – one of the project’s target species
Grizzled Skipper butterfly – one of the project’s target species

Kettering resident Dr Jamie Wildman, who researched the recent Chequered Skipper butterfly reintroduction to Rockingham Forest for his PhD at the University of Northampton, has been appointed as Butterfly Conservation’s new Northamptonshire Landscape Officer. He will be delivering the Threatened Species Recovery project. Jamie said: “I’m proud and honoured to be part of the team at Butterfly Conservation and have the responsibility of implementing works across the Northamptonshire landscape which will create and enhance habitat to improve the prospects for our most threatened butterfly and moth species, as well as Adder. We’re very grateful to Natural England for its support, which will allow our target species to recover and thrive, whilst benefitting a host of others.”

Susannah O’Riordan, Chequered Skipper Project Manager at Butterfly Conservation, who helped develop this project, said: “Butterflies and moths are incredibly sensitive to changes in their environment, and with loss of their habitats and increasing fragmentation, their protection and recovery requires conservation action at a landscape scale. We hope this project will help inform future conservation management decisions for these and other species across the UK.”