Kettering butterfly conservationist to share back from the brink story

The chequered skipper was reintroduced into Northamptonshire in May 2018

Tuesday, 10th May 2022, 1:13 pm

An ambitious conservation project which has reintroduced a previously extinct butterfly to Northamptonshire will be showcased by a University of Northampton researcher.

Kettering PhD researcher Jamie Wildman is part of a team which reintroduced the chequered skipper, a butterfly last seen in England in 1976, to the country as part of the Back from the Brink initiative.

The project, carried out by wildlife charity Butterfly Conservation in partnership with Forestry England, saw around 40 of the species captured in Belgium in May 2018 and relocated to Fineshade Woods.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

Jamie Wildman and a chequered skipper

Jamie said: “Never a day goes by that I don’t appreciate how fortunate I am to be studying the chequered skipper. The University of Northampton and Butterfly Conservation started me on a road to so many unforgettable, life-affirming experiences by bringing me on to this project back in 2018. It still brings a smile to my face every time I describe who I am and what I do as a postgraduate researcher.

“I was a little dazed and overwhelmed at first – it’s not every day that an extinct butterfly species is reintroduced to England – but after getting to grips with the PhD, my role has only felt more special with each passing day. I look forward to summing up what I’ve learnt in my thesis, later this year.”

Four years on the project has been hailed a success, with further funding meaning a follow-on project will run until March 2023.

Records show that there has been an 1,328 per cent increase chequered skipper numbers.

A chequered skipper

Jamie’s role in the project was to focus on understanding the habitat requirements for the chequered skipper and monitoring the success of the reintroduction.

He will give an hour-long free public online lecture as part of Cambridge University’s Museum of Zoology’s Butterflies Through Time exhibition.

The founder population of chequered skippers, reintroduced from Belgium in 2018, bred successfully in Rockingham Forest, and the first generation of native butterflies emerged in May 2019. This new ‘English’ population was then bolstered by more adult butterflies, which were brought over from Belgium. The butterfly has continued to be seen in good numbers each year since 2018.

The Back from the Brink project, made possible thanks to The National Lottery Heritage Fund and People’s Postcode Lottery, aims to save 20 species from extinction and benefit over 200 more through 19 projects that span England.

Jamie Wildman

The chequered skipper became extinct in England in 1976 as a result of habitat loss due to changes in woodland management. In recent years, Forestry England has adopted different land management practices to help improve wildlife habitats, making it the ideal partner for this reintroduction project.

Jamie added: “I’m cautiously optimistic about the species’ chances of naturally recolonising adjacent woodland sites in the years to come due to the distances some chequered skippers have been known to fly at the release site since 2018.

“The chequered skipper will hopefully be released at different sites across Rockingham Forest in the years to come, giving it a modern-day foothold in a landscape it historically populated.”

Click here to register for the lecture, that takes place between 7pm and 8pm on Wednesday, May 11.