Beds, Herts & Bucks

£27m Butterfly World 'could break even', staff say

Gynandromorph of a Great Mormon butterfly Image copyright Butterfly World
Image caption Butterfly World was home to rare species including the half male, half female gynandromorph

A butterfly sanctuary closing because it is not profitable has said that it could turn things round if given the chance.

Butterfly World in Chiswell Green, St Albans, which is currently shut for the winter, has confirmed it will not be reopening next year.

Centre chairman John Breheny blamed a "succession of trading losses".

A spokeswoman said she was confident the centre could "could break even by the end of next season".

'Absolutely devastated'

Marketing and administration manager, Sally Cornish, said: "Having reviewed the trading figures, the team are confident we could break even given the opportunity.

"We are all absolutely devastated.

"Butterfly World is about so much more than the financial side... it is an important conservation and education project, which is not matched anywhere in the country."

Founded by lepidopterist Clive Farrell, the tourist attraction opened in 2009, housing more than 600 tropical butterflies.

Image copyright Google
Image caption Butterfly World opened in Hertfordshire in 2009

About 500,000 people have visited since it opened, including more than 60,000 school children and more than 120,000 people in 2015, making it the "best year ever", Ms Cornish said.

"Getting people there isn't a problem... there's obviously lots of overheads," she said.

On opening, the plan was to build a 100m bio dome for 10,000 butterflies, but it hasn't able to get the financial investment to build it.

Image caption The project was supported by Sir David Attenborough and Prof David Bellamy

In a letter sent to "friends" of the site, the centre's chairman John Breheny said despite the "exceptional efforts" of "dedicated" staff and volunteers, "the cumulative level of trading losses could only be sustainable while there was still a realistic hope the necessary funding could be found to build the Biome".

"Funding to even kick start a larger funding initiative has not been able to be secured, and the prospects for any new money to be available in the future are highly uncertain," he said.

An official statement is due to be issued later.

What will happen to the butterflies and other creatures?

  • At the moment there are no butterflies in the butterfly house during its winter closure - they are all being cared for
  • A new home will need to be found for the "largest colony of leafcutter ants in the country"
  • The "major concern" is for more than 28 species of native butterflies which have come to the site since it opened - including breeding colonies of the Small Blue, which had previously been extinct in Hertfordshire and surrounding counties for decades

Source: Butterfly World

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