Reintroduction of the chequered skipper butterfly

by ZSL on

Last month the Disease Risk Analysis and Health Surveillance (DRAHS) team were busy in the field helping with the exciting reintroduction of the chequered skipper butterfly to England. The reintroduction project is a collaboration between Natural England, Butterfly Conservation, Back from the Brink and ZSL. 

The chequered skipper butterfly became extinct in England in 1976. It is thought this occurred as a result of habitat loss caused by changes in woodland management which saw a decline in coppicing and ride management along with an increase in conifer plantations. The good news is that in recent years there have been efforts to manage English woodlands and that means that there is once again suitable habitat available for the butterflies!

Close-up photograph of a brown butterfly with a yellow chequered pattern on it's wings
A chequered skipper

Project planning started in 2012 and a suitable donor population was found in the forests of Belgium. After the DRAHS team carried out a full disease risk analysis (DRA) for the project it got the green light in 2018.

Just to clarify what we mean by disease risk analysis… A DRA is a very detailed qualitative risk assessment carried out to understand the infectious and non-infectious hazards that might precipitate during a translocation.  One of the aims of the DRA in this case was to make sure that bringing butterflies from Belgium to England would not result in any kind of disease outbreak in the UK. The good news was that the DRA found that there really were very few risks of reintroducing butterflies and that by carrying out some simple measures it would be very straightforward to prevent disease problems.

Photo of a small area of wild meadow surrounded by trees.

In June 2019 ZSL vets Dr Tony Sainsbury and Dr Tammy Shadbolt went out to Belgium and accompanied biologists and the collected butterflies all the way from Europe to the release site here in the UK. Tammy carried out clinical examinations on all the butterflies using a magnifying glass to carefully assess the condition of the wings, the antennae, the legs and even the mouthparts! Examination ensured the butterflies were 'fit for transport' and then once in the UK that the butterflies were 'fit for release'. 

Thankfully the butterflies coped really well with the journey and all 24 were released successfully at the English woodland reintroduction site. It was fantastic to watch the butterflies settling in well and feeding straight-away after release. Hopefully those butterflies will now go on, mate, lay eggs and produce another generation of chequered skippers, helping to grow the population once again in England! 

Find out more about DRAHS

Select a blog

Careers at ZSL

Our people are our greatest asset and we realise our vision for a world where wildlife thrives through their ideas, skills and passion. An inspired, informed and empowered community of people work, study and volunteer together at ZSL.

Nature at the heart of global decision making

At ZSL, a key area of our work is the employment of Nature-based Solutions – an approach which both adapt to and mitigates the impacts of climate change. These Solutions, which include habitat protection and restoration, are low-cost yet high-impact, and provide multiple benefits to people and wildlife. We ensure that biodiversity recovery is at the heart of nature-based solutions. 

ZSL London Zoo

A blog for lovers of ZSL London Zoo, bringing you extraordinary animal facts and exclusive access to the world's oldest scientific zoo.

ZSL Whipsnade Zoo

Do you love wildlife? Discover more about our amazing animals at the UK's biggest zoo!


We're working around the world to conserve animals and their habitats, find out more about our latest achievements.


From the field to the lab, catch up with the scientists on the cutting edge of conservation biology at ZSL’s Institute of Zoology.


A day in Discovery and Learning at ZSL is never dull! The team tell us all about the exciting sessions for school children, as well as work further afield.

Artefact of the month

Every month, one of the pieces held in ZSL’s Library and at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo will feature here as Artefact of the Month.

Wild About

Read testimonials from our Members and extracts from ZSL's award winning members' magazine, Wild About.

Asia Conservation Programme

ZSL works across Asia, from the famous national parks of Nepal to marine protected areas in the Philippines. Read the latest updates on our conservation.

Remote Sensing in Ecology and Conservation

An Open Access journal for research at the interface of remote sensing, ecology and conservation.