Conservative MP for Tiverton and Honiton, Neil Parish, has ‘adopted’ one of the UK’s most threatened butterflies in a bid to help boost its numbers.
The nationally scarce Marsh Fritillary is in decline across Europe, but can be found in small numbers across Devon, including on Dartmoor.
Mr Parish visited the national park recently after becoming a ‘Species Champion’ for the rare butterfly. He said: “I am thrilled to be working with Butterfly Conservation (BC) to raise the profile of the Marsh Fritillary and I’m hoping that by being a ‘Species Champion’ I can contribute to securing its future.
“During my visit I was able to see Marsh Fritillary caterpillars and the amazing webs they spin to protect themselves. It was also extremely valuable to find out what needs to be done with the surrounding land to help this butterfly thrive.”
BC’s Conservation Officer, Rachel Jones, joined Mr Parish on Dartmoor. She said: “The role of the ‘Species Champion’ is to promote good land management for the selected species and to raise the profile of wildlife in Parliament.
“There are now 33 MP Species Champions across England and we’re really grateful that Mr Parish has chosen to support BC and in particular, this declining butterfly, which needs targeted conservation work to keep its population healthy”.
MP's interested in joining the Species Champion scheme can contact Rachel Jones at: @email.
The Marsh Fritillary has declined across the UK by 62% in the last 10 years and although BC’s conservation work on Dartmoor has led to an increase in the number of caterpillar webs found there most years, experts are concerned about a drop in butterfly numbers this year.
The butterfly can be identified by its colourful wings, which are far brighter than other fritillary butterflies. The upper wings are reddish-orange, with yellow or white patches and black veins. It is also the only fritillary to have a row of black dots around the bottom edge on both sides of the hindwing, but none on the forewing.
A guided walk takes place each year on Dartmoor between May and July to see the butterfly during its flight period.
To find out more about this, BC’s conservation work and volunteering to help this butterfly over the autumn and winter, please contact BC’s Project Officer, Jenny Plackett at: @email
Background on MP Species Champion's
There are now 33 MP Species Champion’s across England and each one is partnered with a conservation organisation like BC, who will keep them updated with the issues facing their species and the work being done to save it.
Organisations taking part include the RSPB, Butterfly Conservation, Buglife, Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust, Plantlife, the Bat Conservation Trust and the Bumblebee Conservation Trust.
The initiative is based on a highly successful scheme launched in Scotland in 2013, involving dozens of MSPs.