Friday, 14 June 2013

Endangered Maid of Kent beetle makes rare appearance

A rare beetle has appeared in Kent for only the third time in 16 years.

The Maid of Kent was not seen in the county for almost half a century up until 1997 and was at one time feared to be extinct.

But since the late 90s it had been recorded twice - at Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) reserves in Elmley Marshes and Rye Street.

And now it has been spotted at the charity's reserve at Cliffe, near Rochester.

Ecologists and farmers believe the environmentally friendly farming methods used in the area may have contributed to its revival.

One of the reasons for its decline in the 20th Century was thought to be that its normal habitat - rough pasture grazed by cattle and horses - had been destroyed by modern agriculture practices.

Farmer Keith Loveridge said: "We can't use chemicals or any type of fertiliser here. If we had used this certain type of wormers in the cattle, it would have killed the beetle.

"And I think that is why we have ended up with these rare species on the marsh."

The precious find, which attracted a number of ecologists to the reserve, was in a cow-pat.

Mark Gurney, the RSPB's reserves ecologist, said: "This is just a cow-pat, but living in cow-pats there is a whole community of insects and other tiny creatures that live on the dung.

"And living on them there are bigger predators. And this beetle is one of them."

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