Attenborough announces survival zones

Sir David Attenborough today announces a new national strategy to save some of Britain's rarest butterflies from possible extinction.

Experts believe butterfly numbers in many parts of the country are at an all-time summer low.

In a bid to reverse these declines, Sir David will designate 20 UK landscapes as Butterfly Survival Zones. These zones will become the focus of efforts to save Britain’s butterflies.

Sir David said:  "Almost unbelievably, much of Britain’s countryside is a no-go area for many favourite butterflies. Habitat has been ploughed up or become overgrown.

"Anybody who’s been for a country walk recently will tell you butterflies are a rarity. Scientists fear that in some areas we’re entering a post-butterfly era."

Sir David will make his announcement at the Natural History Museum in London, which is currently hosting the Amazing Butterflies exhibition. The announcement will coincide with the launch of this year’s Save Our Butterflies Week, which sees scores of conservation events across the country.

Butterfly Conservation Chief Executive Dr Martin Warren said: “Butterflies may be tiny, but to save them you have to think big.

"A small colony of butterflies is always vulnerable. A vast chain of habitats is needed to let them spread and establish new colonies. Butterfly Conservation is already talking to many hundreds of landowners and plans to talk to thousands more over coming years.

"They’ll be urged to use Government grants to restore habitat on farms and estates in the 20 zones. The aim is to achieve entire landscapes with suitable habitat.”

Dr Warren said that Butterfly Conservation had already successfully trialled the landscape approach in areas as far apart as the North York Moors and Dartmoor.  Wildlife Minister Joan Ruddock recently witnessed how the rare Marsh Fritillary is making a comeback on Dartmoor as a result of work being carried out there.

Butterfly Conservation is 40 years old this year. It was conceived when amateur naturalists realised the disastrous affect the introduction of intensive agriculture in the 1950s was having on butterfly numbers.

Dr Warren said: “Butterfly numbers are still declining at an alarming rate, but we have proved that we can reverse declines when we intervene. That means involving thousands of people to ensure farming and butterflies can co-exist. Today marks the start of our biggest intervention yet with the establishment of Butterfly Survival Zones in these 20 key landscapes.”