Huge moth that went ‘extinct’ 50 years ago is back in Britain

The Independent reports a striking blue moth that was thought to have gone extinct in Britain 50 years ago has now recolonised and is breeding, conservationists have revealed. The Clifden nonpareil – whose name means “beyond compare” – is one of the largest and most spectacular moths native to the UK.  

It has a wingspan that can reach almost 12cm and a bright blue stripe across its black hindwings, which gives rise to an alternative name of the blue underwing. These moths have always been rare in the UK. 

Clifden nonpareil photo by Tony Morris under creative commons.

Give dock leaves and thistles protected status to save Britain’s rare butterflies, campaigners urges

The Telegraph reports thistles, dock plants and ragwort should be given protected status to save Britain’s rare butterflies, a conservation charity has said. Butterfly Conservation has joined the campaign to repeal the 1959 Weeds Act, which identifies some plants which are useful to pollinators as “weeds” and allows for their large-scale destruction and prevention of their growth.

Painted Lady butterflies, for example, are reliant on thistles, and the very rare Fiery Clearwing moth lives in the roots of Curled Dock. Campaigners have said the legislation is “outdated” and that it drives the destruction of wildflowers which would otherwise have greater protection.  

The rewilding guide to Britain: how and where our most characterful species are being reintroduced

The Sunday Telegraph reports in late August, unbeknown to most of the capital’s population of eight million, a single white-tailed eagle flew over central London. This magnificent bird of prey was one of six released a week earlier on the Isle of Wight and had taken it upon himself to explore his new manor.

That eagle over London was symbolic of a much wider process taking place all over the country. Whether you use the word Rewilding with a capital R, a small r or indeed no r at all, however you choose to define it – big birds of prey, tiny dormice, or a healthy, flowing river – the desire to ecologically restore our landscape is a response to the critical condition of our natural world. Despite the work of organisations like The Wildlife Trusts, RSPB and National Trust, as well as smaller foundations and private estates such as Knepp in West Sussex and Trees for Life in the Scottish Highlands, our wildlife is in trouble. Nature conservation organisations that traditionally focused on protecting specific sites and national parks have reached the consensus that such work is no longer enough. 

England’s national parks ‘must do more to protect nature’

The Guardian reports National Parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty have not done enough to protect nature or welcome diverse visitors, and extra government funding must help drive radical change, according to a review.

The independent review, commissioned by the former environment secretary Michael Gove, praises the work of England’s 44 “national landscapes”, including the Lake District and Dartmoor, but calls for a new focus to stop declines in nature and welcome working-class and black and minority ethnic visitors. 

Woodland Trust asks one million Britons to plant a tree after government misses targets

The Telegraph reports the Woodland Trust is asking one million people to each plant a tree to fight climate change after the government failed to meet targets.

Today the conservation charity launched its ‘Big Climate Fightback’ campaign after figures showed just 1,420 hectares (3,500 acres) of woodland was created in England last year, far short of the 5,000-a-year (12,000 acres) which was promised. 

Are we seeing a spike in urban hedgehogs?

The Telegraph reports all the evidence points to a big decline in hedgehog numbers over the past 50 years or so. The good news is that the decline in urban hedgehogs appears to have slowed, and there are even signs that they may be increasing in towns and cities.

Since the main habitat used by hedgehogs in towns is private gardens, that means gardeners who want to help them (which is surely all of us) have a big responsibility. 

Badger cull in England extended to ‘unimaginable scale’ Ministers approve culling in 11 new areas, with 64,000 animals likely to be killed this autumn

The Guardian reports TB infections in cattle blight farms and cost taxpayers more than £100m a year in compensation payments. But scientists and conservationists oppose the cull, saying there is little evidence it is effective and is being badly run.

“The culls have expanded to unimaginable scales, covering an area larger than Israel,” said Prof Rosie Woodroffe, an ecologist at the Zoological Society of London, one of the team that conducted the earlier large-scale trial.“ I cannot understand why the government has permitted this massive expansion of badger culling, when it has not yet responded to the Godfray Review it commissioned and received nearly a year ago,” she said.“ The review concluded the government and farming industry were paying far too much attention to badger management, and far too little attention to cattle-to-cattle transmission, which is responsible for the majority of TB incidents in cattle.”

Photo by Tim Brookes under creative commons.

Salmon face extinction in UK rivers

The Times reports Atlantic salmon, a species that once packed British and European rivers, is down to its last few million fish and faces extinction in many UK waters, according to scientists.

Just 5% of the salmon hatched in UK rivers return to breed, compared with 25% two decades ago, they found. It means fish numbers have hit their lowest ever, with 50,000 salmon caught in the UK last year – the worst result on record and a fraction of the 600,000-800,000 caught annually until the 1960s. 

Atlantic Salmon photo by Derek Mercer under creative commons.

National Trust defends killing wasps in its cafe despite catastrophic insect declines

The Independent reports the National Trust has defended killing pollinators despite catastrophic declines, describing its wasp traps as a “last resort” to keep visitors safe.

Matt Shardlow, chief executive of conservation organisation Buglife, has previously advised the National Trust on this issue and says he gets calls from people “outraged” that public sites are using traps.

He told The Independent that leaving out traps out actually increases the number of wasps.

Photo by zaphad1 under creative commons.