The Duke of Burgundy is one of the UK's fastest declining butterflies, having suffered a population drop of 35% from 1979 to 2008. It has disappeared from at least 153 of its former known sites. Butterfly Conservation’s ‘The Dukes on the Edge’ project (2011-2014) is targeting an area in the South East of England where the rapidly declining butterfly is clinging to survival.
Heyshott Escarpment, located within a small corner of the South Downs National Park, is one of the Duke’s few remaining strongholds. However, this is only being achieved by the continuing conservation efforts of a small group of dedicated individuals under the guidance and leadership of Neil Hulme (Sussex Butterfly Conservation) and ecologist Mike Edwards (The Murray Downland Trust). Work, undertaken by volunteers in both Kent and Sussex, has shown that populations can recover where appropriate habitat management is implemented and this is the trend currently being observed at Heyshott. The Duke of Burgundy is reliant on scrubby calcareous grassland and sunny woodland clearings where its eggs are deposited on cowslip, or primrose in more wooded environments. Changes in the nature of agricultural and forestry practices have led to required habitats becoming overgrown and consequently unsuitable. As the Duke has struggled to find the food plants it needs to breed and prosper, it has sadly become extinct across much of its former range in the UK. Butterfly Conservation is leading the fight to save this fascinating butterfly and through the Dukes on the Edge project aims:
To assess the status of the Duke of Burgundy and its habitat
To maintain and enhance existing habitat and create new Duke of Burgundy habitat (e.g. through coppicing, ride management, scrub management)
Undertake reintroductions on selected sites
Monitoring the impact of management on habitat condition and the butterfly's population.
Public events to raise awareness of the conservation importance of the South Downs for the Duke of Burgundy
The creation of a ‘Dukes on the Edge Action Group’.
Mapping of the locations of managed habitat, together with Duke of Burgundy records on GIS
Training events for volunteers to enable them to participate in conservation tasks, surveying and monitoring