Steven Cheshire's British Butterflies
British Butterflies: Conservation: Protected Species
In Britain almost all of our butterflies are suffering in one way or another as a result of the impact of man on the natural environment. Many species are now extremely vulnerable, some severely threatened while others are on the brink of extinction. Many species are now protected by various UK Government and European Union laws.

Despite this protection, our own government is regularly guilty of breaking its own laws. So called 'developments' on protected sites including Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI's) have had a devastating impact in some areas. Butterflies, don't have a voice, so its up to those committed to saving them and their environment to ensure that our elected MP's and un elected civil servants ensure that laws are upheld and the protection of our wildlife is paramount in any decision making process.

Collecting and selling butterflies
Large Blue apparently collected from a site at Hartland, North devon on 5th July 1953.It is illegal to sell some species if they were collected after the species was added to the UK Wildlife and Countryside Act. These four butterflies were openly for sale on Ebay in August 2010 but they were apparently caught before they were given protection by law.

Left: Large Copper apparently bred from 'Woodwalton Stock' available for sale on Ebay in 2010.

More information!! Learn more about the ethics of collecting wild butterflies.
Butterflies offered full protection under UK law
In 1981 the UK Wildlife and Countryside Act gave the Heath Fritillary, Large Blue and Swallowtail full protection by law. In 1988, the Marsh Fritillary and Large Copper were added to the list.

In 1992, due to significant declines across England and Wales, the High Brown Fritillary was also added to the protected species list.

It is a criminal offence to disturb in any way or collect these species (as eggs, caterpillars, chrysalis or adults... this includes netting adults to aid identification in the field even if they are released unharmed). These species are also protected by prohibition of sale (see below). Exceptions to this rule are those individuals who have been granted an official licence to handle these species for conservation purposes. It is also illegal to trade in these species, either as live adults or as 'pinned' specimens. Unfortunately, this law does not apply to 'captive bred' livestock.

Visit this web site!! The 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act on the Office of Public Sector Archives web site.

Butterflies offered protection through prohibition of sale only
In 1989, the following species were protected by the UK Wildlife and Countryside Act by prohibition of sale only.

Adonis Blue, Black Hairstreak, Brown Hairstreak, Chalkhill Blue, Chequered Skipper, Duke of Burgundy, Glanville Fritillary, Large Heath, Large Tortoiseshell, Lulworth Skipper, Marsh Fritillary, Mountain Ringlet, Northern Brown Argus, Pearl-bordered Fritillary, Purple Emperor, Silver-spotted Skipper, Silver-studded Blue, Small Blue, White-letter Hairstreak, Wood White.

Anyone found selling these species (eggs, larvae, pupae, adult butterflies or 'pinned' specimens) are breaking the law unless they have a special permit/licence and could face a prison sentence or heavy fines. Unfortunately, this law does not apply to 'captive bred' livestock. The source of such 'captive bred' stock is the subject of much debate. It is impossible to be 100% certain of the origin of species purchased from livestock dealers.

Species protected under the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act are reviewed every five years.
European Red List of Butterflies 2010
Published in 2010, the The European Red List is a review of the conservation status of European specie according to IUCN regional Red Listing guidelines. It identifies those species that are threatened with extinction at the regional level in order that appropriate conservation action can be taken to improve their status.

These species have been given the following classification.
The Large Blue are classified as being endangered, the Large Heath classified as being vulnerable and the Lulworth Skipper as near threatened.

Van Swaay, Cuttelod, Collins, Maes, Munguira, Šašić, Settele, Verovnik, Verstrael, Warren, Wiemers and Wynhoff.
(2010) European Red List of Butterflies. Council of Europe Publishing, Luxemburg.
(2,700kb) available as a .pdf download.


The New Red List 2007
Fox, R., Warren, M & Brereton, T.
(2007) New Red List of British Butterflies. Butterfly Conservation, Wareham.

available as a .pdf download from the Butterfly Conservation web site.


Red Data Book 1999
Published in 1999, the Red Data Book was the first comprehensive review of the 576 known resident butterfly species across Europe. The report shows that 71 species across Europe are threatened due to changes in land-use. 43 other species are classed as near threatened.

These species have been given the following classification.
The Large Blue are classified as being endangered, the Lulworth Skipper, Marsh Fritillary and Large Heath are classified as being vulnerable and the Duke of Burgundy and Scotch Argus are classified as being near threatened.

Van Swaay, C. & Warren, M.S.
(1999) Red Data book of European butterflies (Rhopalocera). Nature and Environment, No. 99, Council of Europe Publishing, Strasbourg.
(3,110kb) available as a .pdf download.
Overview of IUCN categories
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) is an organisation set up to help the world find pragmatic solutions to our most pressing environment and development challenges. By supporting scientific research and field projects all over the world, it brings governments, non-government organizations, United Nations agencies, companies and local communities together to develop and implement policy, laws and best practice to protect wildlife and the natural world.

Visit this web site!! Further information about the IUCN can be found on their web site at: www.iucn.org.
Visit this web site!! You can search the global 'Red List' of endangered and threatened species at: www.iucnredlist.org.
Regionally Extinct  
A species is defined a being Regionally Extinct when there is no doubt that the last individual has died in the region. This must be confirmed by exhaustive surveys of known habitat, throughout its historic range.   Species defined as regionally extinct in Britain are: currently unavailable
Critically Endangered    
A species is defined as being critically endangered when the best available evidence shows that it meets set criteria (see report for details). By meeting these criteria, the species is considered to be facing an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild. Species defined as critically endangered in Britain are: currently unavailable
Endangered    
A species is defined as being endangered when the best available evidence shows that it meets set criteria (see report for details). By meeting these criteria, the species is considered to be facing a very high risk of extinction in the wild. Species defined as endangered in Britain are: currently unavailable
Vulnerable    
A species is defined as vulnerable when the best available evidence shows that it meets set criteria (see report for details). The species is therefore considered to be facing a high risk of extinction in the wild. Species defined as vulnerable in Britain are: currently unavailable
Near Threatened    
A species is defined as being near threatened when it has been evaluated against the criteria but does not qualify for critically endangered, endangered or vulnerable at the present time but is close to qualifying for or is likely to qualify for a threatened category in the near future.
Species defined as near threatened in Britain are: currently unavailable
Least Concern    
A species is defined as being of least concern when it has been evaluated against the criteria and does not qualify for any of the above categories. Widespread and abundant species are included in this category. They are not listed here.  
Not Listed    
All non-resident or previously extinct species. They are not listed here.