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Species Recovery Programme (SRP)

In 1990, despite decades of conservation work, many plants and animals had continued to decline in numbers, and it was feared that several species would disappear completely, even some that were once numerous. A new strategy had to be developed to tackle this concern.

A year later, English Nature launched its Species Recovery Programme (SRP) in response to the growing concern for the plight of much of England's wildlife. It aims to achieve the long-term self-sustained survival in the wild of species of plants and animals currently under threat from extinction.

Species conservation was traditionally based on fine-tuning habitat management and preserving what existed. English Nature's Species Recovery Programme has questioned this approach. It offers a new challenge to conservations by directly addressing the needs of particular plants and animals, and developing opportunities to extend and expand their range.

Using a structure approach, SRP drives new research into the ecology of our native plants and animals to enable more effective conservation.

SRP work has resulted in projects to re-introduce plants and animals back into areas from where they have been lost, as well as establishing populations in newly restored habitats.

Among the successes the SRP has recorded are the:

  • dormouse, helped by captive breeding and a re-introduction programme to return to six counties where it had become extinct. The animals are breeding and expanding in both numbers and range;
  • red kite, which persecution had wiped out but which now has hundreds of breeding pairs in the UK;
  • large blue butterfly, this species had became extinct in 1979, but has been reintroduced from Sweden to nine sites in its former range;
  • ladybird spider, up from just 19 remaining individuals it now has a flourishing population of more than 500 spiders;
  • starfruit, which has recovered from one last plant in a Surrey pond to recolonise 13 known sites.

Other species to benefit under the SRP include the wart-biter cricket, the lady's slipper orchid, Edmond's ground beetle (just 1.5 millimetres long), and the world's second largest fish, the basking shark.

 ladybird spider


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