Student races against the clock to save one of Wales' rarest moths.

A student is living in a converted ambulance in a Monmouthshire woodland as he races against the clock to save one of Wales’s rarest moths.

Joel in his ambulanceJoel in his ambulanceEvery second counts for Bangor University research student Joel Walley, who is roughing it in Hendre Woods in a bid to be as close as possible to the Drab Looper, whose regular haunts have declined to only two in Wales.

Forestry Commission Wales and Butterfly Conservation Wales have carried out emergency management work in the woodland over the past two winters to improve the natural habitat for the beautiful moth with an unfortunate name.

As part of his MSc research, Joel is comparing conditions in the FC Wales-managed woodland with another stronghold for the species just over the border in Herefordshire.

He will be spending the summer rooting around in the bracken and brambles in an effort to shed light on the endangered moth’s preferred breeding sites, which will be essential for its survival.

Richard Gable, FC Wales local area manager, said the work FC Wales had already done with Butterfly Conservation Wales to make the woodland more attractive for the Drab Looper appeared to have helped for now.

He said, "Our woodlands provide essential habitats for many species and I’m delighted that the Drab Looper has been located in Hendre Woods.

"This species of moth is extremely rare in Wales, so we must do everything we can to ensure that its favoured habitat is both managed and preserved."

Joel’s work will be critical to discovering what conditions the Drab Looper prefers, so that FC Wales and Butterfly Conservation Wales can carry out further management work this winter to save the moth as a breeding species in Wales.

Russel Hobson, head of conservation Wales for Butterfly Conservation Wales, said, "Joel has taken on this challenge with gusto. Student projects like this are sometimes the only way to understand the conservation needs of rare species.

"Butterfly Conservation is lucky to find students as dedicated as Joel to do this important work.

"He’s even living in a converted ambulance to be as close to the sites as possible and make the most of every bit of sunny weather."


Publication date: 3 August 2011