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Vital surveys of rare moths of Bristol’s Avon Gorge get underway

Silky Wave mothVital surveys are getting underway to monitor numbers of a rare moth species only found in parts of the Avon Gorge and nowhere else in England.

Silky wave moths inhabit areas of calcareous grassland and rocky out crops on the south or south-west facing slopes of the Avon Gorge. The only other places these moths are foundin Britain are the Gower in south Wales and the Great Orme in north Wales.

June marks the start of the moths’ flight season this year – later than usual due to the recent poor weather - and now staff from Bristol Zoo staff and volunteers from the Bristol Regional Environmental Records Centre are beginning the most comprehensive survey of the species ever undertaken.

This is the second year that Bristol Zoo and its sister organisation – the Bristol Conservation and Science Foundation – have taken on full responsibility for monitoring the silky wave moth in the Gorge. Weekly expeditions into the Gorge will be carried out across 15 sites over 10 weeks, to record populations of the at-risk species.

Previous surveys, undertaken by Butterfly Conservation in partnership with Bristol Zoo, have shown that the species’ numbers fluctuate from year to year, with the moth showing signs of a decline in some parts of the Gorge.

The species is now classified as vulnerable and has been designated a priority species in need of conservation on the UK Biodiversity Action Plan.                                     

Last year, record moth numbers were documented for the first time in a decade. Maddy Ivey, UK Conservation Officer at Bristol Zoo explains: “Last year we recorded high numbers of the moth in the Avon Gorge, which was fantastic news. We also found moths in sites where they have never previously been found by surveyors before.”

She added: “While last year’s high numbers are likely to be attributed to the increase in survey efforts, we are hopeful that 2012 could be another good year for the moths, with numbers far higher than previously thought. This could mark a real turnaround for the species, but it is still early to know if this year’s bad weather has impacted on the moths.”

Once the surveys are completed, the results and recommendations for how best to manage the land for the benefit the moths will be made to the Avon Gorge and Downs Wildlife Project. The Avon Gorge is a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and Special Area of Conservation and is carefully managed by the Avon Gorge and Downs Wildlife Project and the National Trust to protect a variety of rare plant and animal species.

The silky wave moth is a small and cream-coloured with an iridescent shine and a slightly darker-brown wavy pattern on both the fore- and hind wings.

The silky wave moth project is a partnership between Bristol Zoo Gardens, Bristol Conservation and Science Foundation, the Avon Gorge and Downs Wildlife Project, Butterfly Conservation, National Trust and Natural England.

Bristol Zoo Gardens is a conservation and education charity and relies on the generous support of the public not only to fund its important work in the zoo, but also its vital conservation and research projects spanning five continents.

For more information about Bristol Zoo Gardens visit the website or phone 0117 974 7300.


Lucy King, T: 0117 974 7306, or email:

Hannah Worrall, T: 0117 974 7309, or email:

Notes to Editors

Bristol Zoo Gardens

·         Bristol Zoo is open from 9am every day except Christmas Day. 

·         Bristol Zoo Gardens is a conservation and education charity and relies on income from visitors and supporters to continue its important work. 

·         Bristol Zoo is involved with more than 100 co-ordinated breeding programmes for threatened wildlife species. 

·         It employs over 150 full and part-time staff to care for the animals and run a successful visitor attraction to support its conservation and education work. 

·         Bristol Zoo supports – through finance and skill sharing - 15 projects in the UK and abroad that conserve and protect some of the world’s most endangered species.

·         In 2011 Bristol Zoo celebrated its 175th birthday. Over that past 175 years, the Zoo has brought six generations of Bristolians closer to wildlife, helped save over 175 species from extinction, established over 30 field conservation and research programmes all over the world, showed 40 million school-aged children the wonder of nature and given more than 90 million visitors a wonderful day out.

·         In 2010 Bristol Zoo Gardens set up a Conservation Fund to raise vital funds to help care for threatened animals and plants – both in the Zoo and through the conservation work we do in the UK and around the world.

·         Bristol Zoo Gardens is a member of the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums. BIAZA represents more than 90 member collections and promotes the values of good zoos and aquariums.

The Bristol Conservation and Science Foundation

·         Bristol Zoo’s work in the field is carried out through the Bristol Conservation and Science Foundation (BCSF), which is based at Bristol Zoo Gardens.

·         BCSF carries out conservation and research programmes to support wildlife conservation – both in the UK and across the world - as well as research projects at Bristol Zoo Gardens.

·         It aims to focus on the underlying causes of threats to species and ecosystems, rather than the symptoms.

·         It also aims to empower other people, often those in disadvantaged communities, to identify and mitigate the environmental issues that threaten species, their habitats and sustainable development.

·         BCSF’s public presence in Bristol Zoo Gardens enables it to engage actively with the public, to share knowledge, elicit support and drive change in conservation behaviour.

·         Field conservation projects run by BCSF include Père David deer in China; Livingstone’s fruit bats in the Union of the Comoros; primates of Colombia; partula snails of French Polynesia; South African penguins; lemurs of Madagascar; primates of Cameroon; tortoises and terrapins of Vietnam; the Avon Gorge & Downs Wildlife Project; native invertebrates and rare plant reintroductions in Somerset and white-clawed crayfish in south west England.