08 April 2009>
The internationally important Aberbargoed Grasslands were set alight over the weekend causing a potential catastrophe for the site's wildlife.
This protected site is home to a breeding population of marsh fritillary butterflies, a butterfly that is on the very edge of extinction and has all but disappeared from Europe.
It is believed that arsonists caused the damage, which affected the site's best field for the butterflies. Over recent years all butterflies have suffered due to the poor summer weather, but this fire also comes at a time when caterpillars are present and many may have been killed.
Mark Allen, the site ranger says ''Caerphilly county borough council has been sustainably managing this site through scrub clearance and grazing for nearly three years and we are now at a stage where the improved habitat would have been of benefit to the marsh fritillary. This inconsiderate minority do not seem to realise the ecological damage they are causing by setting these fires."
He added, "We are making improvements to site access and welcome the public to use the site responsible. The public can also help us manage the site by volunteering, we run monthly tasks that anyone can join in on."
The site is protected by law and anyone caught causing intentional damage to the site can be fined up to a maximum of £20,000 or if the case is taken to the high court then an unlimited fine can be imposed.
Aberbargoed Grasslands are a fantastic place to visit and it is just about to come into its best time of the year, soon the site will be blooming with wildflowers and buzzing with insects.
For more information about the site please visit www.caerphilly.gov.uk/countryside or phone 01443 875557.
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