Funding boost to help save UK's rarest species from extinction

A chequered skipper butterfly. Credit: Flickr/John Flannery

Efforts to save 20 of the UK's rarest species from the brink of extinction are being backed by £4.6 million in lottery funding.

Little-known and exotically-named insects such as the bearded false darkling beetle and the royal splinter cranefly, as well as plants including the prostrate perennial knawel and interrupted brome are among the 20 species being targeted for action.

A further 200 threatened species, including hedgehogs, large garden bumblebees, pine martens and lesser butterfly orchids will also be helped by the funding.

The Back from the Brink initiative will bring together leading charities and conservation bodies in the first nationwide coordinated effort to safeguard species from extinction and deliver conservation measures across England.

The scheme aims to boost conservation efforts in 150 key habitats and landscapes, and recruit and teach more than 5,500 volunteers the skills they need to study, identify and look after threatened species.

The 20 species the project aims to save from extinction are:

A black click beetle. Credit: Flickr/Katja Schulz
  • Black click beetle

  • Field wormwood

  • Shrill carder bees

  • Interrupted brome

  • Matted bryum

  • Chequered skipper butterfly

  • Northern dune tiger beetle

  • Ladybird spider

  • Narrow headed ant

  • Royal splinter cranefly

  • Variable chafer

  • Moccas beetle

  • Oak click beetle

  • Violet click beetle

  • Grey carpet moth

  • Bearded false darkling beetle

  • Cosnard's net-winged beetle

  • Purbeck mason wasp

  • Prostrate perennial knawel

A northern dune tiger beetle. Credit: Flickr/Bernard Dupont

Projects include restoring Dorset heathland, bringing back locally extinct plants in agricultural land, create a network of grasslands in the Cotswolds, manage Sefton's dunes to help species recover, conserve Breckland grass heaths and restore and manage Rockingham Forest sites.

As part of the programme, wildlife charity Butterfly Conservation will reintroduce the chequered skipper butterfly to Rockingham Forest, near Corby, Northamptonshire, after it became extinct in England in 1975.

Next spring, Butterfly Conservation will collect 30 to 50 adults from healthy populations in Belgium and release them into a secret site in Rockingham, with the hope of more introductions in the future.

Matt Shardlow, chief executive of Buglife, another of the charities involved, said: "Bugs, beetles, ants, spiders and other invertebrates make up the majority of species on the brink of extinction.

"It is fantastic that this pathfinding partnership project will pull back so many species that could otherwise disappear forever.

"Our natural environment has never been more imperilled; dedicated work to rescue endangered plants and animals is a cornerstone of any sensible broader strategy to restore a thriving countryside."

Government conservation agency Natural England's chairman Andrew Sells said the Back from the Brink programme being supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund represented a "groundbreaking approach" to nature conservation.

"Bringing these species back from the brink cannot be achieved by one group alone.

"But by pooling resources and developing new ides, this project will add vital momentum to all our efforts," he said.