A PIONEERING butterfly reintroduction project at Abbots Wood by the Forestry Commission is to benefit butterfly conservation nationwide.
One of the rarest butterflies in the UK, the Pearl-bordered Fritillary, named because of the white ‘pearls’ on the edge of its hindwing, has taken flight in record numbers this year following its reintroduction in 2004.
Previously extinct in this wood it is now one of the best sites in the country.
Last year, 250 Pearl-bordered Fritillary were seen at Abbots Wood, the highest count in the South East for more than a decade, which put it among the top 10 sites nationally.
This year 628 have been recorded along woodland corridors, pathways and open spaces from the heart of the forest to the outer edges.
Stuart Sutton, wildlife ranger at the Forestry Commission, said, “The success this year in part has been down to the good weather, which has benefited butterflies nationwide.
“However the general trend in many other locations is that the Pearl-bordered Fritillary has been in decline, other reintroduction projects have failed time and time again and the species has been hanging on a knife-edge.
“We are thrilled that every year we have seen an increase in numbers here at Abbots Wood but this year the population has grown beyond our wildest expectations.
“The butterflies have really taken advantage of our carefully targeted management of the forest landscape and tree felling, which provides sustainable timber for British industry as well as open warm and sunny areas for feeding and breeding butterflies.”
Dan Hoare, senior regional officer for Butterfly Conservation in South East England, said, “This is a pioneering conservation project by the Forestry Commission, which is helping to secure the future of this woodland butterfly at a national level.
“The meticulous records of how the Forestry Commission has achieved this success is an exemplar model for future reintroductions and other butterfly conservation projects across the country.”