Duke of Burgundy by Peter Eeles

A butterfly on the brink of extinction in Kent has seen its population more than treble across the county thanks to a decade of conservation work to turn its fortunes around, wildlife charity Butterfly Conservation (BC) can reveal.

The Duke of Burgundy has declined by 40% across the UK since the 1970's and in 2008 the butterfly was hanging on at just four sites in Kent, a former stronghold.

But a decade later, BC can reveal that the number of breeding colonies across the county has risen to 13 and the number of Dukes seen on any one day at these sites has increased from 32 to 140 butterflies.

Chair of BC’s Kent Branch, Nathan Jones, said: “This amazing turn-around started ten years ago when Butterfly Conservation, in partnership with Forestry Commission England, secured funding for a three-year project to create new butterfly habitat and improve woodland management at several sites.

“When that ended in 2011, the work was kept going thanks to the ‘Duke Guardians’ volunteer network and a Natural England scheme to create new flower-rich grasslands specifically for the Duke of Burgundy.

“Without these efforts, the butterfly would not be here today - certainly not in the numbers we now enjoy across Kent.”

The Duke of Burgundy is renowned for its feisty nature and is often seen chasing off much larger butterflies that wander into its territory.

The butterfly can be seen on the wing throughout May and early June and people are being invited to see the Duke for themselves at free guided walks on Sunday 12 May at Denge Wood near Canterbury and on Sunday 9 June near the village of Crundale.

The Branch also runs other butterfly and moth events run all year. 

Duke of Burgundy - Iain H Leach

Dan Tuson from Natural England said: “We’ll continue to monitor this butterfly and do what we can to help it thrive in Kent.

“Our work to create a new network of grassland habitats is helping the Duke move into new areas and we have a great relationship with farmers and landowners across the Crundale and Wye area, providing them with habitat management advice on how to benefit this butterfly and other wildlife.

“I’d like to thank all the dedicated volunteers, who have ensured the legacy of the original project continues to this day and I am extremely hopeful that that this lovely butterfly will always have a home in Kent.”