Page last updated at 11:10 GMT, Sunday, 10 May 2009 12:10 UK

Fence to protect rare butterflies

Pearl bordered fritillary, credit: Jim Asher, Butterfly Conservation
Pearl bordered fritillary numbers are in decline throughout the UK

Conservationists hope a new fence in County Durham will help safeguard the future of a rare butterfly.

Small pearl bordered fritillaries are under threat throughout the UK because of the loss of violets on which the larvae feed.

A fence along a stretch of a tributary of the River Browney will protect the plants from grazing livestock.

It will also allow a colony of the butterflies at nearby Tow Law to expand along the river bank.

The Environment Agency joined forces with Butterfly Conservation and Durham County Council for the project.

Fiona Morris, Environment Agency biodiversity technical specialist, said: "Whilst all the existing sites are managed to protect the butterflies, they remain extremely vulnerable because of small habitat areas, small population size and their isolation.

"We hope the fence will help to protect the larvae's food supply and enable the colony to grow."

Dave Wainwright, from the charity Butterfly Conservation, said: "Butterflies are a very good indicator of habitat quality, and the quality of the countryside.

"If we lose butterflies that is a sign that we are losing other things."



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