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The Lake District Wildlife Park was flying high after releasing over 100 Painted Lady butterflies in front of park visitors and over 100 school children from across the county. This spectacular event was the first of several activities and events planned at the park for the summer holidays and was timed to coincide with the national Big Butterfly count which started this week.
The Painted Lady butterfly is a summer migrant from North Africa, a vigorous flier who enjoys a sunny open habitat with lots of small flowering plants such as those found on the Armathwaite Hall estate. Planning for this spectacular event, the Lake District Wildlife Park invested in hundreds of caterpillars, watching as the metamorphosis from caterpillar to beautiful butterfly took place. As part of their outreach programme Fran Foster, Environmental Educator delivered caterpillars and butterfly houses to schools in Wigton, Gosforth and Cartmel so they could get involved in the activity, bringing their own butterflies along to the park for release too.
Also witnessing the release of the butterflies were members of the Women’s Institute, Keswick Tourist Association, Butterfly Conservation, and guests to the Wildlife Park and Armathwaite Hall Hotel. The release of the butterflies was followed by an illustrated talk on the Butterflies of Cumbria by Chris Winnick of Butterfly Conservation, who was also on hand to answer questions about butterfly conservation and giving wildlife gardening advice.
In the last 150 years 4 butterfly species and 60+ moths have become extinct. Since the 1970’s, three-quarters of British butterflies have gone into decline and many moths are also facing an uncertain future.
Environmental Educator Fran Foster said “Everyone loves butterflies, and Cumbria is home to 41 species which is remarkable considering how far north we are. It has been fantastic to be able to involve local schools and groups so we hope today has inspired people to graduate from simple “hands-off” butterfly watching (in which nothing is done to help butterflies except to watch their numbers dwindle) to butterfly gardening. This activity helps compensate for some of the habitat loss that butterflies are experiencing in our growing urban areas. Considering the ratio of survival rates in nature, each female butterfly will produce one surviving pair of adult butterflies in a stable ecosystem. By releasing 100+ butterflies it is easy to calculate the boost that the local butterfly population could receive.”
The Big Butterfly count is underway until 6th August and visitors to the park are picking up a Butterfly Count chart so they can monitor the number of different butterflies they see.
Chis Winnick, Butterfly Conservation “I’ve had a wonderful day working with children from 3 – 83! We (Butterfly Conservation) have built a lasting relationship, not only with the Lake District Wildlife Park, but the Graves Family of Armathwaite Hall & Estate where we will be undertaking much collaborative conservation work and public engagement.”
Park Manager Richard Robinson said “What better way to start the summer holidays than with an activity that brings the community together. Children, parents and grandparents are all getting involved, spending just 15 minutes monitoring the number of butterflies. It’s an opportunity for our visitors to really engage with what we are doing and chance to spend the day exploring the park and coming face to face with some rare and endangered wildlife. We’ve always lots of additional activities throughout the summer and we’ve increased the number of keeper talks, displays and encounters too.”
The Big Butterfly release was the first of several events taking place at the park over the summer holidays. Future events include a Taste of Madagascar where visitors get chance to meet the Dwarf Zebu, learn more about lemurs and taste traditional Malagasy food in the café.