Give your stamp of approval

New Royal Mail stamps celebrate successful species reintroductions

New Royal Mail stamps celebrate successful species reintroductions
Osprey: a keystone, or top-of-the-food-chain, species. Artwork by Tanya Achilleos Lock

You can now give successful species reintroduction your personal stamp of approval thanks to the Royal Mail.

It recently released six stamps featuring species that have been reintroduced after becoming extinct or endangered in the UK.

The stamps feature original illustrations by Wiltshire-based artist Tanya Achilleos Lock and depict the Eurasian beaver, pool frog, sand lizard, large blue butterfly, osprey and stinking hawks-beard. 

Philip Parker from the Royal Mail says, ‘When a plant or animal becomes extinct in a country, that does not have to be the end of the story. Our beautiful new stamps mark the skill and expertise of conservationists in reintroducing species back to their former environments.’

We at Rewilding Britain agree with Philip wholeheartedly. We would add that reintroductions and rewilding in general should always have widespread public support. Local communities and landowners also need to have the power to make decisions. In short, rewilding will only happen if people want it to.

Six reintroductions

Osprey

Ospreys were declared extinct in Scotland in 1916, around 70 years after their disappearance from England. They naturally recolonised in Scotland in the 1950s and there are now around 200 breeding pairs in the country. In 1996, 64 birds from the Highlands were translocated to Rutland Water in England and, by 2001, some had returned from migration to breed for the first time in 150 years. Ospreys also breed in the Lake District, the Kielder Forest in Northumberland and in Wales. Osprey-watching at sites such as these is said to bring in additional income of about £3.5 million a year to local economies.

Large blue butterfly

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It was declared extinct in Britain in 1979, but the large blue butterfly has made an amazing recovery after its reintroduction in 1984. The reintroduction was based on the remarkable discovery that large blue caterpillars pupate in the nests of a particular species of red ant. By 2006, an estimated 10,000 eggs were laid across 11 sites in south-west England. In 2016, over 250,000 eggs were laid on wild marjoram and thyme plants in Gloucestershire and Somerset. As well as being a captivating sight and having fascinating educational value, butterflies of all kinds are vital indicators of environmental and ecosystem health.

Eurasian beaver

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This species was hunted to extinction in England, Wales and Scotland in the 16th century. Around 400 years later, in 2009, Beavers were released into Knapdale Forest, Argyll, as part of the Scottish Beaver Trial and the population is still growing. In England, Devon’s River Otter Beaver Trial began in 2015 and concludes in 2020. Beavers are nature’s ecosystem engineers, creating dams and waterways that provide new habitat for hundreds of other species to flourish. These waterworks also help to reduce flood risk downstream.

Pool frog

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The pool frog disappeared from the UK in 1995 due to fenland drainage in Norfolk. However, pool frogs from Sweden were reintroduced to a specially adapted location in the county between 2005 to 2008. Since then, the population has grown and become established.

Stinking hawk’s-beard

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Most populations of this dandelion-like plant were lost in the early 1900s, surviving only at Dungeness in Kent until 1980. Seed from Dungeness was collected, stored and cultivated at the University of Cambridge, and has since been propagated and reintroduced to several reserves. They can now be found at Rye Harbour in East Sussex and Dungeness.

Sand lizard

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These animals have suffered dramatic declines due to habitat loss. Fortunately, captive breeding and over 70 reintroductions of over 9,000 lizards has helped to revive populations. They now live on protected heathland in Dorset, Hampshire and Surrey, and in protected dune systems on Merseyside. They’ve also been reestablished in North and West Wales, Devon, Cornwall, Kent and West Sussex.

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