Drab life in an ambulance to save rare moth

A student is living in a converted ambulance in a Monmouthshire woodland as he races against the clock to save one of Wales's rarest moths.

Every second counts for Bangor University research student Joel Walley, who is roughing it in Hendre Woods in a bid to be as close as possible to the Drab Looper. The moth's population has rapidly declined and Hendre Woods is one of only two sites in Wales where it can still be found.

Forestry Commission Wales and Butterfly Conservation have carried out emergency management work in the woodland over the past two winters, to improve the natural habitat for the beautiful moth with an unfortunate name.

As part of his MSc research, Joel is comparing conditions in Hendre Woods with another stronghold for the species just over the border in Herefordshire. He will be spending the summer rooting around in the bracken and brambles, in an effort to shed light on the endangered moth's preferred breeding sites.

Richard Gable, FC Wales local area manager, said: "Our woodlands provide essential habitats for many species and I'm delighted that the Drab Looper has been located in Hendre Woods.

"This species of moth is extremely rare in Wales, so we must do everything we can to ensure that its favoured habitat is both managed and preserved."

Joel's work will be critical in determining habitat conditions favoured by the Drab Looper. His findings will inform management work scheduled this winter, to save the moth as a breeding species in Wales.

Russel Hobson, head of conservation Wales for Butterfly Conservation, said: "Joel has taken on this challenge with gusto. Student projects like this are sometimes the only way to understand the conservation needs of rare species.

"Butterfly Conservation is lucky to find students as dedicated as Joel to do this important work. He's even living in a converted ambulance to be as close to the sites as possible and make the most of every bit of sunny weather."