Butterfly helps Minister launch website

Schools Minister Jim Knight has launched a new children's website as part of celebrations marking the 40th anniversary of the charity Butterfly Conservation.

As Jim Knight MP posed for pictures at the launch of Butterfly Conservation's Learn website, a Red Admiral butterfly landed beside him and then moved onto his finger.

Red Admirals have been one of the species hardest hit by this summer's bad weather.

"It is unusual to even catch sight of them in many parts of the country, " said Dr Martin Warren, Chief Executive of Butterfly Conservation. " To have one on the Minister's finger was amazing."

He said he hoped it was a good omen for the website, which is aimed to build on children's natural fascination with butterflies. It is also intended to be an aid for teachers.

Butterflies are far more important than previously realised. Their sensitivity to change is much greater than that of birds or animals. Increases or decreases in butterfly numbers and shifts in location can alert us very rapidly to what is happening to the climate and to the environment.

Mr Knight heard from expert Richard Fox how butterflies that were once found only in the southern Britain were now common in Scotland. This is just one example of how butterflies have flagged up climate change.

Mr Knight said he was really impressed with the website.

"It's engaging for children and it's a useful resource for teachers in schools"

He said he'd enjoyed playing one of the website's games. He said: "I really can envisage children learning about different types of butterflies through games."

The new website was launched as hundreds of butterfly enthusiasts from all over the country converged on Butterfly Conservation's East Lulworth headquarters for an Open Day enabling them to see what the charity does.

Butterfly Conservation was founded in 1968 after a small group of naturalists first realised that habitat loss caused by the introduction of intensive farming and new types of forestry was causing a massive decline in butterfly numbers.

Sir Martin Doughty, Chairman of Natural England, said the founding members had made a major contribution to the development of conservation in the UK.
He also praised the thousands of Butterfly Conservation volunteers who weekly record sightings of butterflies all over the UK. He said the data they provided was "unmatched anywhere else in the world".

In addition to its volunteers, Butterfly Conservation has over 50 staff. It charity was pivotal in establishing Butterfly Conservation Europe and the East Lulworth operation is now at the hub of a global conservation campaign.