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Rare Butterfly Returns

An extinct butterfly is being reintroduced to England in an ambitious new conservation project

A previously extinct butterfly will fly in its English home for the first time in more than 40 years as part of the ambitious conservation project, Back from the Brink.

Wildlife charity Butterfly Conservation has released Chequered Skipper butterflies at a secret location in Rockingham Forest, Northamptonshire, as part of the project.

It's anticipated that these butterflies will mate and lay the foundations of a new English population of Chequered Skipper in the forest.

Thanks to players of People's Postcode Lottery, £600,000 was awarded to support the project, which aims to save 20 species from extinction and provide benefit to over 200 more through 19 projects spanning England.

The Chequered Skipper, although always scarce, became extinct in England in 1976 as a result of habitat loss due to changes in woodland management.

Reintroduction trials took place in the mid-1990s with the information gathered helping to provide vital information ahead of today's major reintroduction attempt.

Butterfly Conservation ecologists travelled to Belgium to collect Chequered Skipper adults from the Fagne-Famenne region in the south of the country, where they are widespread, with the help of Belgian experts from the Research Institute for Nature and Forest and the Département de L’Etude du Milieu Naturel et Agricole

The reintroduction is the first of a number that will take place at sites across Rockingham Forest over the next three years with the hope of building a large, resilient and sustainable population of Chequered Skipper across the whole landscape.

Dr Nigel Bourn, Butterfly Conservation Director of Science, said, "It is a privilege to help return this charismatic little butterfly to its former stronghold of Rockingham Forest.

"It has taken many years and a lot of hard work from many people to get to this point and I am very proud to be part of the team collecting these beautiful butterflies and returning them to England at last."

The release follows four years of careful planning with partners and authorities in the UK and Belgium to agree techniques, secure permissions and ensure the right habitat management is in place to support the new population.

The project will be closely monitored to assess its success in the early stages, with the aim that in one or two years, once the population is secure, the public will be able to visit and enjoy seeing Chequered Skippers fly in England again.

James Harding-Morris, Back from the Brink Communications Manager, said, "It's fantastic to see one of our Back from the Brink projects make such great strides towards restoring a species to England.

"It will be a few years before we know how much of a success this introduction has been, but during that time Back from the Brink will be working to save hundreds of other threatened species."

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The Chequered Skipper will fly in its former English home for the first time in 40 years (Image: Adam Gor, Butterfly Conservation)

"Butterfly Conservation has been planning this reintroduction project for many years and I am delighted that by working collaboratively with our Back from the Brink partners, we have realised our ambition."

Julie Williams, Butterfly Conservation Chief Executive

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