Success for Large Heath reintroduction programme


Large Heath is flourishing in parts of north-west England following a recent reintroduction project.

The species used to be numerous on the peatlands in Greater Manchester before a gradual decline, exacerbated by habitat degradation during the building of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway during the 19th century.

Large Heath is restricted to boggy habitats in northern Britain, Ireland, and a few isolated sites in Wales and central England (Chris Teague).

However, small numbers were reintroduced in 2020 and 2022 in parts of the North-West, with another release scheduled for summer 2023 at an undisclosed location in Greater Manchester. The butterflies to be released this year were collected under licence from an existing population at Winmarleigh Moss near Garstang, Lancashire, then cared for at Chester Zoo.

A spokeswoman for The Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside said they were "optimistic" about the future of the species, which is now "breeding strongly".

Jo Kennedy, co-ordinator at Great Manchester Wetlands Partnership, said: "More than 98% of lowland peatlands in our region have been lost, creating a huge hole in our biodiversity. It's been a real team effort but, with three releases of butterflies now achieved, the population is breeding strongly and we are really optimistic about its future."