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Record-breaking breeding success for critically endangered native insect - The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS)

Efforts to save a rare native insect from extinction have been boosted by a record-breaking breeding season at the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland’s Highland Wildlife Park.

Staff at the wildlife conservation charity are celebrating the hatching of 6,925 pine hoverfly larvae within the conservation breeding programme this year, marking the most larvae of this species ever bred in captivity and a significant increase for the critically endangered British population.

hoverfly on white flower
Adult pine hoverflies emerge in early Spring and mate before dying in mid-Summer. The team have to find fresh food for the hoverflies to eat throughout this window. (Credit RZSS)

No one has seen an adult pine hoverfly in the wild in Britain for over eight years, and just 25 larvae were brought into the RZSS pine hoverfly conservation breeding programme in 2019.

Planning for releases back into newly restored habitat in the Cairngorms is now underway in collaboration with the Rare Invertebrates in the Cairngorms project, a partnership between the RSPB, Cairngorms National Park Authority, Buglife Scotland, Butterfly Conservation Scotland, and NatureScot.

Dr Helen Taylor, RZSS conservation programme manager, said, “This record-breaking season is a vital lifeline and could represent a real turning point for the pine hoverfly, which is on the brink of extinction in Britain due to habitat loss over the past century. Invertebrates are crucial to healthy ecosystems and are disappearing at an alarming rate, though sadly these species are often overlooked until it is too late. The wild population of this important pollinator is currently restricted to just one site, a forest patch in the Cairngorms National Park, which means we are now caring for many more individuals at Highland Wildlife Park than are thought to remain in the wild. There has been a huge amount of work involved in this project from our keepers, vets and conservation staff. Thanks to this dedication and collaboration, the future is looking much brighter for this rare species and it is really exciting to be able to progress plans to release some individuals back into their wild habitat.”

Posted on: 17 August 2021

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