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A 250,000 boost for butterflies in Devon
By Laura Joint
BBC Devon

Small pearl-bordered fritillary
Small pearl-bordered fritillary butterflies will benefit from the grant

The Devon Wildlife Trust has received a grant of over £250,000 to help boost butterfly numbers at five of its nature reserves.

The cash will go towards conservation work at sites where there are populations of a number of fritillary butterfly species.

The £257,469 grant comes from the Viridor Credits Environmental Company, through the Landfill Communities Fund.

The cash injection will be spread over three years.

The five nature reserves set for improvements are Blackadon, Dart Valley, Dunsford, Emsworthy on Dartmoor and Marsland on the north coast of Devon.

Marsh fritillary butterfly
Marsh fritillary butterflies have been plentiful at Marsland this summer

Habitat work at the trust's sites has already reaped rewards, with large numbers of the rare marsh fritillary butterfly being spotted this summer.

The habitat management techniques for much of the conservation work have been developed over the past 20 years by senior reserves officer Gary Pilkington at the trust's Marsland nature reserve.

Numbers of small pearl and pearl bordered fritillaries have increased dramatically over that period, bucking the national trend of decline.

The grant will enable the charity to buy an alpine tractor which is specially designed for safe use on steep slopes like those found in Dartmoor's valleys.

The trust is also purchasing a quad bike to help manage the sites for these rare and threatened species.

The grant will also support training and survey work which will be carried out over the period to monitor the success of the project.

"This is a significant boost for us and will help us manage these more difficult sites and create and expand the habitats which these butterflies thrive on," said Matt Boydell, land management manager at the Devon Wildlife Trust.

"The project focuses on the management of south facing bracken slopes increasing spring-flowering plant species including violets and bugle which are the food plants of the larvae and adults."

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