Back from the brink

Chequered Skipper

A previously extinct butterfly could be re-introduced to England thanks to an ambitious project to protect some of our most threatened wildlife.

The Chequered Skipper became extinct in England in 1975 but is still found in parts of Scotland.

The ‘Back from the brink’ project, a partnership between Butterfly Conservation and some of the UK’s leading wildlife charities, plans to return this beautiful, dappled butterfly to Rockingham Forest in the East Midlands.

Prior to extinction, the butterfly was found in a diagonal strip of limestone countryside from Devon to Lincolnshire. One of its key strongholds was Rockingham Forest, near Corby in Northamptonshire. 

The Chequered Skipper re-introduction forms part of a programme to protect more than 100 threatened species from extinction, thanks to a £4.6 million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

As part of the project, Butterfly Conservation plans to protect other threatened butterfly species including the Duke of Burgundy, Wood White, Marsh Fritillary and Large Blue as well as moths including the Liquorice Piercer and Barred Tooth-striped.

The project is a partnership between Natural England and a coalition of the UK’s seven leading wildlife charities (Amphibian and Reptile Conservation, Bat Conservation Trust, Buglife, Bumblebee Conservation Trust, Butterfly Conservation, Plantlife, and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds).

Butterfly Conservation director of Director of Science and Policy Dr Nigel Bourn explained: “Working with colleagues from Natural England and the other six species NGOs has been one of the highlights of my career to date, allowing us all to bring many shared values to the table, while focussing on the wildlife and their specific needs that we know and love the most.

“The next few years will be very exciting as we work together to conserve England’s most threatened species.”

HLF has approved the development stage and provided initial funding for ‘Back from the Brink’, project to focus on protecting key threatened species – such as the Grey Long-eared Bat, the Pasque Flower and Sand Lizard, from extinction.

By working together at sites across the country, ‘Back from the Brink’ will save 20 species from extinction and help another 118 species that are under threat move to a more certain future.

Once the development stage is completed in September 2016, the partnership hopes to secure the next phase of funding from HLF, which would mean the project would be up and running for four years until 2020.

The programme will combine three strands of work, including species conservation on the ground in over 30 places across England, working with landowners, communities, and volunteers, and inspiring people to enjoy and appreciate England’s threatened species. 

The project is a key contributor to achieving the Government’s Biodiversity Strategy 2020 and forms part of Natural England’s Species Recovery Programme, which focuses on boosting populations of rare insects, birds, and mammals.