Butterflies and the Law
This section of the website is aimed at providing a layman's introduction to the legal protection offered to butterflies in the UK. Of course, many enthusiasts also respect these wonderful creatures beyond the protection offered to them by law. For more information on wildlife (in general) and the law, there is an excellent overview on the Buglife website. Butterflies
are protected by a number of acts. The most significant of these is the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.
Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981
This act is divided into a number of "schedules" and Schedule 5 lists animals (other than birds) that qualify for protection. Schedule 5 is revised every five years. The butterflies in Schedule 5, and their level of protection, is given below. As far as butterflies are concerned, this act applies to wild, rather than captive-bred, individuals.
The table below lists those species that have full protection.
|High Brown Fritillary||1992|
"Full protection" is defined as all of the following parts of the act.
|9||1||Intentional killing, injuring, taking.|
|9||2||Possession or control (live or dead animal, part or derivative).|
|9||4(a)||Damage to or destruction of any structure or place used by a scheduled animal for shelter or protection.|
|9||4(b)||Disturbance of any animal occupying such a structure or place.|
|9||4(c)||Obstructed access to any such structure or place.|
|9||5(a)||Selling, offering for sale, possessing or transporting for the purpose of sale (live or dead animal, part or derivative).|
|9||5(b)||Advertising for buying or selling live or dead animal, part or derivative.|
The table below lists those species that have partial protection; they are protected by Section 9, Parts 5(a) and 5(b) and, as such, are characterised as being protected for "Sale only".
|Adonis Blue ||1989|
|Black Hairstreak ||1989|
|Brown Hairstreak ||1989|
|Chalkhill Blue ||1989|
|Chequered Skipper ||1989|
|Duke of Burgundy ||1989|
|Glanville Fritillary ||1989|
|Large Heath ||1989|
|Large Tortoiseshell ||1989|
|Lulworth Skipper ||1989|
|Mountain Ringlet ||1989|
|Northern Brown Argus ||1989|
|Pearl-Bordered Fritillary ||1989|
|Purple Emperor ||1989|
|Silver-Spotted Skipper ||1989|
|Silver-Studded Blue ||1989|
|Small Blue ||1989|
|White-Letter Hairstreak ||1989|
|Wood White ||1989|
There are certain exemptions to the to the act which are relevant when:
- Any damage or disturbance is accidental.
- Preventing serious damage to crops or livestock.
- Acting in the interests of animal health, public health or public safety.
- Damaging or obstructing a place of shelter when it is inside a house.
- Carrying out scientific investigations, rescue operations or wildlife photography involving protected animals under licence from the appropriate authority.
- Possessing protected species (e.g. in insect collections) which were taken from the wild without contravening the law (e.g. under licence or before legal protection was enacted).
The Wildlife (Northern Ireland) Order 1985
The Wildlife and Countryside Act doesn't apply in Northern Ireland. However, protection is afforded by the Wildlife (Northern Ireland) Order 1985.
With regard to the protection of species, this is very similar to the Wildlife and Countryside Act. The butterflies receiving full protection through this act are shown below:
|Dingy Skipper ||1985|
|Holly Blue ||1985|
|Large Heath ||1985|
|Marsh Fritillary ||1985|
|Purple Hairsteak ||1985|
|Small Blue ||1985|
There are 2 international statutes that apply to species in the UK. These are:
- Conservation of Natural Habitats and of Wild Fauna and Flora (Habitats Directive) - CNH
- Council of Europe Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats (Bern Convention) - CEC
These statutes apply to the following species:
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