The successful reintroduction of a rare butterfly species to north Hampshire has been recognised with an award.

The Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust (HIOWWT), alongside Butterfly Conservation, were given a Sanctuary Award for their work in reintroducing the marsh fritillary to the area. The butterfly had declined by 80 per cent since the 1970s, and is one of Europe’s most threatened butterflies.

Richard Hennessey, senior reserves officer for HIOWWT said it was “a great achievement” and thanked the organisations that helped in the reintroductions.

The marsh fritillary has a cream and orange chequerboard pattern across its wings and once was widespread across the UK and Europe. However, it is highly vulnerable to habitat changes, and declined significantly in the 20th century following destruction of the grasslands it inhabits.

In 2009, HIOWWT became involved in efforts to conserve the butterfly, and began an attempt to reintroduce it to north Hampshire. They began managing land owned by the Ministry of Defence, where the butterflies had last been living in the county before disappearing in the 1990s.

The trust helped restore the habitats to be suitable for the butterflies, and then bred butterflies from Dartmoor before releasing them into the wild in 2018. Within three years, the population has reached over 200, with plenty of caterpillars seen feeding on their food plant, Devil’s-bit scabious.

Richard Hennessey said: "I am very pleased that the marsh fritillary project has been recognised by the Sanctuary Awards, receiving Highly Commended in its class. It is a great achievement among some tough competition. The project demonstrates what can be accomplished collaboratively, and we would like to thank our partners Butterfly Conservation, the MoD and HMFAG for all their hard work with the reintroduction.”