Butterfly enthusiast caught, killed and planned to sell endangered Large Blue species, court hears

Rozina Sabur
a Large Blue butterfly - Butterfly Conservation/PA

A butterfly enthusiast caught, killed and planned to sell endangered British species at a National Trust garden, a court heard.

Philip Cullen, the first person to be prosecuted under 'obscure' wildlife conservation laws, has been convicted of capturing and killing specimens of the Large Blue - Britain's rarest butterfly.

Philip Cullen Credit: PA

The 57-year-old scrambled over locked gates and used a child's net to capture the globally endangered butterflies at two protected sites.

He was seen chasing and swiping his net at a Large Blue (Maculinea arion) before leaving the Daneway Banks in Gloucestershire with a plastic bag of glass jars.

The following day, volunteers at the Collard Hill site in Somerset challenged Cullen after seeing him with the small net.

Police later raided his home in Cadbury Heath, Bristol, and found a large number of dead and mounted butterflies - including Large Blues.

Cullen had labelled two of the butterflies - which he claimed were from France - "DB" and "CH", the initials of the two sites where he had been seen.

Magistrates convicted Cullen of six charges against him, relating to him killing, capturing and possessing the Large Blue butterflies.

Philip Cullen Credit: PA

The butterflies, which were reintroduced to the UK after becoming extinct in the 1970s, are protected under the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010.

Large Blues became extinct in about 1979 and were reintroduced, including to Collard Hill and Daneway Banks, in the 1980s.

Bristol Magistrates' Court heard that it would be "very easy" to catch one of the butterflies in Cullen's small net, due to their slow flight pattern.

Mark Greaves, a volunteer for the charity, said there was a secondary market for Large Blue butterflies mocked up to look like "old Victorian species".

These can fetch between £200 and £300 each.

Geoffrey Martin, of the Natural History Museum, said there were up to 30 trays of butterflies and moths at Cullen's home.

Cullen, who previously admitted possessing other protected species of butterfly, will be sentenced on April 7.

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