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Last Updated: Thursday, 25 May 2006, 06:18 GMT 07:18 UK
Trust bid to save rare butterfly
Pearl bordered fritillary, credit: Jim Asher, Butterfly Conservation
The pearl bordered fritillary occupies "flower rich, bracken slopes"
An action plan to help bring a rare species of butterfly back from the brink of extinction has been launched in Ceredigion.

During the last 25 years, numbers of the pearl-bordered fritillary have declined by 77%, making it the second most endangered species in Wales.

Experts say numbers had dwindled because of changes in land management.

National Trust staff have already worked on a project at Cwm Soden to help the butterfly survive.

The decline of the pearl-bordered fritillary comes second only to that of Wales's most endangered butterfly, the high brown fritillary.

The butterflies are a lovely orange colour, and they are quite visible as they tend to nectar along the footpaths
Russel Hobson

Russel Hobson, from Butterfly Conservation Wales, said changes in the way woodlands are managed had contributed to the decline.

"The pearl-bordered fritillary is a species that occupies very flower rich bracken slopes," he said.

"It used to be associated with woodland, but now there are none in woodlands in Wales, they are all in big sunny open bracken slopes."

Mr Hobson explained that the species used to flourish in "heavily-managed" woodland areas like the Wye valley.

He said traditional methods for managing the woodland had created warm pockets within the woodland with lots of violets - the species' favourite flower - to feed on.

'Biggest impact'

The pearl-bordered fritillary also flourishes on bracken-covered slopes, but if the bracken becomes too dense, the violets are smothered.

Mr Hobson said grazing animals used to control the growth of the bracken, and the decline in cattle grazing on the slopes could also have contributed to the demise of the butterflies.

"It's very difficult to tell why this species is at such low numbers, if it is the change in land management or grazing animals that has had the biggest impact," he said.

"The work the National Trust is doing is fantastic, because it is reversing the trend," he added.

Paul Boland, the National Trust's property manager for Ceredigion, said with support from the Countryside Council for Wales they had been able to employ contractors and work with volunteers to manage the site.

Staff at the site near Cwmtudu rake off the dense build-up of bracken litter, which smothers the violets, that the butterflies' caterpillars feed on.

'Flowery meadows'

A thin layer of bracken litter is left as shelter for the caterpillars on sunny spring days.

"It's a lovely site that's got some fantastic flowery meadows, and you can also wander down to the sea," said Mr Hobson.

"The butterflies are a lovely orange colour, and they are quite visible as they tend to nectar along the footpaths," he said.

County seeks butterfly spotters
13 May 06 |  North West Wales

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