Labour Assembly Member (AM) for the Vale of Glamorgan, Jane Hutt, has ‘adopted’ one of the rarest butterflies in Wales in a bid to boost its numbers.
The High Brown Fritillary has declined by 66% across the UK since the 1970’s and in Wales it can only be found in the Alun Valley near Ewenny.
Jane Hutt has joined forces with wildlife charity Butterfly Conservation (BC) to become a ‘Species Champion’ for the butterfly.
BC’s Head of Conservation in Wales, Russel Hobson, said: “The Species Champion project is about AM’s promoting species, their habitats and generally raising the profile of wildlife in the Senedd.
“There are now 37 AM Species Champions across Wales and we’re really grateful that Jane has chosen to support BC and raise awareness of this declining butterfly.”
The Labour AM joined BC staff on a visit to Old Castle Down near Ewenny this summer to see the butterfly for herself.
She said: “I am proud to be a Species Champion for High Brown Fritillary and think the project is a great idea as it is very important to raise awareness and support the vital work of volunteers.”
BC has spent the last 15 years working with partners to restore areas of the Alun Valley for the High Brown Fritillary, which involves the regular cutting of bracken and scrub to let in the light and encourage the caterpillars food plant – Violets - to flourish.
Every summer a team of BC volunteers walk nearly three miles every week to count the number of High Brown Fritillary butterflies they see.
The results help BC decide which conservation work to take, but this year the counts were the lowest they have been for nearly five years.
Russel added: “It has been a disappointing year for the High Brown Fritillary, but their numbers in the valley are still more than double what they were in the late 1990’s before any conservation work began.
“Now, thanks to Jane Hutt’s support and funding from Natural Resources Wales and Vale of Glamorgan Council, this project could help secure the butterfly’s future in Wales.”
The High Brown Fritillary is usually on the wing from the middle of June until early August.
This large, orange and black butterfly is seen flying swiftly over the tops of bracken or low vegetation in woodland clearings, but can also be seen visiting flowers such as thistle and Bramble.
Conservation work for the High Brown Fritillary will continue with support from the landowners; the Ewenny Priory Estate, Duchy of Lancaster and the Ogmore Commoners Association.
Events are taking place across the Alun Valley throughout November and in the New Year. For opportunities to get involved visit: www.butterfly-conservation.org/Swales.
About the Species Champion Project
There are now 37 AM Species Champion’s across Wales 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. Species Champions is run by Wales Environment Link with a range of organisations taking part.
The initiative is based on a highly successful scheme launched in Scotland in 2013, involving dozens of MSPs.
The High Brown Fritillary project is funded project is funded by BC, Natural Resources Wales and Vale of Glamorgan Council and conservation work is supported by the Ewenny Priory Estate, Duchy of Lancaster and the Ogmore Commoners Association.