Devon is rich in wildlife and important for the conservation of many species. At least 1,600 species that occur here are considered to be either threatened with extinction in the British Isles or are nationally scarce. Our wildlife is in crisis and we need to act now to support our native species and habitats.

With the intention of increasing the scale and pace of our work in response to nature’s decline, we pledged (in 2019, as part of the National Association of AONBs Colchester Declaration) to protect what remains and recover what has been lost in our natural environment. A key part of that commitment was:

That, by each AONB immediately adopting a species on the threatened list and by preparing and delivering a Species Action Plan, at least thirty species relevant to AONBs will be taken off the list by 2030


A new approach

Since it was formed in 2002, the AONB Partnership has delivered and supported a wide variety of habitat and species activity across the East Devon AONB, but we have never adopted a particular species to champion.

The first step in changing our approach was consulting the Devon Local Nature Partnership (LNP) ‘special species’ list. The long list details 1,600 species known to be rare in Devon, but within this there’s a short list of 96 species for which Devon has a particular responsibility for their UK survival.

We sifted the key species on the ‘short list’ for those with particular relevance to East Devon and presented them to the AONB Partnership for consideration. At its 27 April 2020 meeting the East Devon AONB Partnership completed a survey ranking each species (see rankings here).


Our species

Following the survey of the AONB Partnership, our assessment of the feedback and liaison with other parties (including our AONB Ambassadors), the AONB team has established a short list of 8 species for focused action. The conservation and recovery of this endangered group will be the focus of our #SavingSpecialSpecies project.



Our next steps will be to liaise with a range of individuals, partners and agencies to confirm and develop an individual Species Action Plan (SAP) for each of the 8 species – our Elusive 8 – with a view to linking these with our proposals for a Nature Recovery Plan for the AONB as a whole. The plans will seek to layout a path to delivery and reference resource requirements. Our planning for this will take place across 2020/21 and up to 2024 and the next AONB Management Plan review.


Deciding factors

In identifying our eight species from the prioritised shortlist, we were mindful that other species of importance to East Devon are already a priority for other agencies and organisations – e.g. Beavers, Cirl Bunting, Heath Potter Wasp.  Although popular and worthy of recovery action, we were keen to avoid duplicating efforts, enabling a broader approach across the AONB.

We also wanted, where possible, to build on previous projects/work of the AONB Partnership – e.g. Bats/Heath lobelia.

Our rationale for selection was based on the following key factors:

  • Each species has been confirmed by the AONB Partnership as a priority worthy of consideration
  • Each species is on the revised Devon Special Species list/regarded as being of conservation concern
  • Each species has potential for broad public engagement and citizen science approaches
  • Collectively, our species could form part of a landscape scale approach to nature recovery and have relevance across the AONB. (The species we have identified all have a common link with a farmed and wooded landscape).


Read our Species Recovery report on our proposals and the process so far here