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Extremely rare butterfly spotted on Paignton Zoo’s nature trail

Paignton Zoo’s Clennon Gorge nature reserve has recently witnessed a remarkable event: the appearance of a white admiral butterfly, a species that a species that is very rarely recorded in the South West.

It was an incredible find by Richard Billington, a lecturer at Plymouth University, who managed to capture a photograph as evidence of his discovery.

White admiral butterfly at Clennon Gorge credit Richard Billington edited scaled
Richard Billington caught the rare butterfly on camera while he was walking on the Clennon Gorge nature trail.

He commented:

“This is my first new sighting of a butterfly species in the UK for at least 10 years. I’d hazard a guess that it recently emerged there and is not an immigrant, especially given how early in their flight season it is.”

Unlike its sun-worshipping counterparts, this black and white marvel prefers the cool shelter of British woodland, basking in peaceful, shady spots. Typically, their presence is observed primarily in southern England, with a few scattered pockets in Wales.

Once abundant during the mid-20th century, the white admiral population in the UK has experienced a sharp decline over the past two decades, largely due to the loss of their natural habitat. Consequently, Butterfly Conservation has designated them as a high-priority species for conservation efforts.

Wild Planet Trust is the conservation charity behind both Paignton Zoo and Newquay Zoo, with a core mission of helping halt species decline. Every week, the Trust monitors the butterfly population to ensure they are managing the reserves accordingly. As providing safe havens for threatened species is a key part of their work, being able to see rare wildlife like the white admiral at one of their reserves is very exciting for the charity.

Reflecting on the significance of this discovery, Richard added:

“Zoos also have a vital role to play in conserving our native flora and fauna. This encounter reaffirms the importance of their contribution.”

Big Butterfly Count

Join us on Thursday 3rd August in Primley Park.

We will be there from 11am to 3pm to help ID the butterflies you see and answer any questions you may have!

All it takes is 15 minutes of your time and all you need to do is count how many butterflies you see in that time!