First-ever survey of protected, rare Irish butterfly
The State is to carry out the first ever national survey on the only one of 12,000 insects which live in Ireland that is afforded protection under EU law.
There is little knowledge of exactly how many of marsh fritillary butterflies there are in Ireland.
Butterfly expert and ecologist Dr Eugenie Regan of the National Biodiversity Data Centre said yesterday that the survey "is the least we can do. The marsh fritillary is the only legally protected insect in Ireland out of 12,000".
Dr Regan said that the butterfly "is in danger of becoming extinct across parts of Europe".
The most recent report carried out under the EU habitats directive on the butterfly in Ireland determined that the marsh fritillary had unfavourable conservation here.
A spokeswoman for the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) said yesterday that that it could not comment on what the cost of the survey would be as it is currently out to tender.
The contract for the survey is due to be awarded next month, with work expected to start immediately and continue until next March.
In all, Dr Regan said, personnel will carry out surveys of 60 sites across the country.
She said: "This is the first time that such work has been carried out and it is critically important that it happens."
A provisional list of 30 sites shows that almost half of the sites are located in Co Donegal.
The figures show that there are three sites each in Co Clare and Co Sligo that will be surveyed, while two each in Co Cavan, Co Leitrim, Co Limerick, Co Mayo, Co Roscommon and one in Co Monaghan will also be looked at.
Dr Regan said that the marsh fritillary favours wet fields, but that its population has come under pressure through drainage favoured by European agricultural reform.
The survey will be co-ordinated between the contractor, the NPWS, the National Biodiversity Data Centre and its network of butterfly recorders.