Conservation News

Country diary: butterflies are not as delicate as they look

Wenlock Edge, Shropshire: This small tortoiseshell has survived a difficult winter but its offspring may not be so fortunate

A small tortoiseshell butterfly rests from the dizzying randomness of flight and alights on a hedge. It’s a sunny noontime and the insect flexes, absorbing solar energy, keeping wing patterns moving to ensure its profile is never still enough to be identified in any bird’s-eye view. The hedge has been flailed, its branch ends shattered and raw, the result of savage violence that makes the small tortoiseshell appear so vulnerable, like a child on a highway.

Butterflies are not as delicate as they look. This one has survived the winter, roused from torpor by a warm spell only to be blasted by chill winds and having to retreat again into the half-death of hibernation. Predation from mice (in sheds) or great tits (in tree holes) can make hibernating deadly.

Related: Patrick Barkham on the dramatic decline of Britain's butterflies

Related: UK butterfly census 2018: winners and losers – in pictures

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‘Death by a thousand cuts’: vast expanse of rainforest lost in 2018

Pristine forests are vital for climate and wildlife but trend of losses is rising, data shows

Millions of hectares of pristine tropical rainforest were destroyed in 2018, according to satellite analysis, with beef, chocolate and palm oil among the main causes.

The forests store huge amounts of carbon and are teeming with wildlife, making their protection critical to stopping runaway climate change and halting a sixth mass extinction. But deforestation is still on an upward trend, the researchers said. Although 2018 losses were lower than in 2016 and 2017, when dry conditions led to large fires, last year was the next worst since 2002, when such records began.

Related: Africa cocoa industry failing on deforestation pledge – campaigners

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'Bee saviour' sugar cards could save starving insects

Inventor crowdfunds to produce reviver sachets after prototype success

If you’ve ever felt a pang of pity for a starving bee struggling on the pavement in front of you, then help may soon be at hand. Or more precisely, in your wallet.

A community development worker has invented a credit card-style reviver for bees containing three sachets of sugar solution, which can be placed beside the insect to feed it.

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Woodpigeons and crows can no longer be freely killed in England

Natural England scraps general licence to kill ‘pest’ birds after launch of legal challenge

“Pest” bird species such as crows, woodpigeons and jays can no longer be freely killed in England after the government’s conservation watchdog revoked the licence permitting it.

The move by Natural England came after a challenge to the legality of the “general licence” by a new environmental group, Wild Justice, created by conservationists Mark Avery, Ruth Tingay and Chris Packham.

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Scottish wild salmon stocks in crisis, say anglers

Just over 37,000 wild salmon were caught last year, the lowest in nearly 70 years

Scotland’s anglers have warned that wild salmon stocks are at crisis point after they caught the lowest number on record last year.

Official data from the Scottish government showed just over 37,000 wild salmon were caught in 2018, the lowest since records began in 1952 and 67% of the average over the past five years.

Related: Scottish salmon fishing season opens – in pictures

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