A set of six stamps to be issued on April 17 will celebrate wildlife which has been successfully reintroduced into Britain following its extinction in the wild.

In the past two centuries it is estimated that more than 400 species of animals and plants have disappeared from the UK, usually due to the loss, degradation or fragmentation of their natural habitats.

Thanks to the efforts of conservationists, scientists and volunteers, however, a number of programmes have successfully reintroduced some to their former environments, where they are flourishing once more.

Designed by Godfrey Design, from illustrations by Tanya Lock, the Reintroduced Species set features six examples. With the exception of the large blue butterfly, all these species are appearing on British stamps for the first time.

Litho-printed by ISP, the set comes in three se-tenant pairs.

1st class Osprey

After being persecuted by gamekeepers and having eggs stolen by collectors, rgia bird of prey was recorded as an extinct breeding species in Britain in 1916. Its natural recolonisation of Scotland in the 1950s led to a very slow growth in population, mainly in the Highlands, so in 1996 young birds were released around Rutland Water in England. Now ospreys are also breeding in the Lake District, Northumberland and Wales.

1st class Large Blue Butterfly

In 1979 it was declared that this fragile insect had become extinct in the UK, and reintroducing it was complicated by the fact that its larvae feed on the grubs of a single species of red ant. In 2006, about 10,000 eggs were strategically placed in south-west England, and 10 years later more than 250,000 were reported to have been laid on wild marjoram and wild thyme plants at reserves in Gloucestershire and Somerset.

£1.45 Eurasian Beaver

Europe’s largest native rodent was once widespread, but was hunted to near-extinction for its fur, meat and castoreum (a secretion used in the perfume industry), and disappeared from Britain by the 16th century. Trial projects have reintroduced it in Argyll from 2009 and Devon from 2015, and an accidental release of beavers also occurred on Tayside.

£1.45 Pool Frog

Loss of its natural fenland habitat in East Anglia, due to agricultural intensification and drainage, were cited as the principal causes for the demise of this amphibian by 1995. From 2005, however, pool frogs from Sweden were reintroduced into a site in Norfolk whose habitat had been specially enhanced to improve their chance of survival, and the population has now become well established.

£1.55 Stinking Hawk’s-Beard

This plant was always limited to the coastal shingle of south-east England, and scattered inland sites with chalk and sandy soils, and by 1980 it persisted only at one site in Kent. Seed was collected and propagated at the University of Cambridge, and the species has since been successfully reintroduced to several nature reserves in the region.

£1.55 Sand Lizard

Sandy lowland heaths were the stronghold of this species, but in the past century much of this habitat has been depleted in Britain, leaving colonies smaller and more isolated. Captive breeding and more than 70 successful reintroductions of over 9,000 lizards has helped to reverse the decline, and it is now flourishing at protected sites in Dorset, Hampshire, Surrey and Merseyside, as well as in north Wales, Devon and Cornwall.

 

OTHER PRODUCTS

The presentation pack, written by naturalist and television presenter Chris Packham, gives background information on the British extinction of many animal and plant species and the efforts of conservationists in reintroducing them, as well as a spotter’s guide to the six featured species.

 

PRICES

Set of 6 stamps   £7.34

Presentation pack   £7.85

Stamp cards   £2.70

First day cover    £9.23

 

VERDICT

COMMEMORATIVE WORTH   4/5

This is not just a typical thematic issue, but a celebration of genuine conservation achievements

QUALITY OF DESIGN   4/5

The illustrations have a realistic, earthy quality which sets them apart from photographic designs

WOW FACTOR 2/5

Flora and fauna will never attract the public attention that greets stamps reflecting popular culture