Butterfly Conservation has launched an appeal to help save precious native species from extinction, including one of Norfolk's wild crown jewels.

The charity is aiming to raise £120,000 in less than three weeks with its Big Give campaign.

The funds will help cover a £250,000 shortfall in Government funding this year for the charity's Threatened Species Programme which works to save 71 endangered butterflies and moths that, without the right work, could go extinct in the UK.

A Scarce Pug caterpillar
A Scarce Pug caterpillar. Picture: Garry Barlow

Among them is the Scarce Pug - a moth so rare in the UK that the only place it has been seen since 2011 is north Norfolk.

Butterfly Conservation Senior Ecologist Tony Davis said: "The Scarce Pug is a true Norfolk speciality: it's already very rare throughout Europe and this is the only place we can now find it in the UK. This beautiful moth is 100 per cent worth saving in its own right, but understanding how to help the Scarce Pug will also enable us to help other species that use that same foodplant, so it could help stop an entire food chain from collapsing."

This delicate, striped moth lives on salt marshes and seawalls where it can find its food plant, Sea Wormwood. Its biggest threat is habitat loss, with its foodstuff being lost to the sea through coastal erosion.

Scarce Pug moth
The Scarce Pug moth. Picture: Garry Barlow

Two out of four species that rely on Sea Wormwood are already extinct, which means time is running out for the Scarce Pug. Butterfly Conservation is investigating the feasibility of moving some moths to a safer area in the Thames Estuary which is less threatened from coastal erosion, giving the species a chance to recover.

Butterfly Conservation is working to identify what specifically the species needs to survive and to find the last remaining colonies to save them from extinction through this potential translocation, which is a long-term goal.

Among the other rare species the charity is working to save from extinction is the Marsh Fritillary: already one of Europe’s rarest and most threatened species, climate change and habitat loss is pushing this butterfly west across the UK.

White-spotted Sable - David Morris
White-spotted Sable moth. Picture: David Morris

Butterfly Conservation is also working to help the White-spotted Sable moth: loss of traditional coppicing is destroying this species' habitats and climate change is causing droughts in its host plants.

Tony Davis added: "The £250,000 shortfall in our Government funding this year has added immense pressure to our conservation helping threatened species. The Scarce Pug is a perfect symbol of the nature and climate crisis because without continued action it really could go extinct in our lifetime. We are calling on the people of Norfolk - please help us to save the Scarce Pug and other species like it."

Butterfly Conservation's Big Give campaign is aiming to raise £120,000 from 12-30 June. A generous anonymous donor has already pledged to match all funds raised up to £60,000 so the charity only needs to raise another £60,000 in donations to hit its target.

The appeal officially opened at midday on Wednesday, 12 June.

Find out more and donate at butterfly-conservation.org/big-give-2024