Starcross moth is star of Paignton Zoo's insect collection
THE conservation charity behind Paignton Zoo is donating a collection of scientific specimens to a top local museum.
The Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust is handing a large collection of butterflies, moths and other insects to the Royal Albert Memorial Museum and Art Gallery in Exeter.
The specimens were collected by Dr David Stradling, the Chairman of the Trust, who died in July 2012 after a long illness. He left 50 boxes of pinned specimens and an extensive collection of ants.
Simon Tonge, Executive Director of the Trust, the charity that oversees Paignton Zoo, Slapton Ley, Living Coasts and Newquay Zoo, said: “This is a large private collection of invertebrates put together by a professional entomologist during the course of his working life.
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"The specimens from Trinidad and Argentina are especially impressive.”
Greg Sheldon, Exeter City Council’s Lead Councillor for Environment and Leisure, said “We are delighted to accept this collection of local and scientifically valuable specimens.
"They will strengthen RAMM's existing nationally important butterfly and moth collection. Of particular interest is a first Devon record for a small green moth found at Starcross.”
Dr Stradling lectured on entomology and ecology at the University of the West Indies in Trinidad, working on the ecology of leaf-cutting ants, tarantulas and hawkmoths. Back in the UK, he worked at the University of Exeter for many years, becoming a trustee of the Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust in 1981 and Chairman in 2001.
The collection was started in the 1950s and includes specimens from the UK, Switzerland, Trinidad, Argentina and Botswana.
Mr Tonge added: "The museum will take all the UK specimens, most of which were collected in the West Country. There are some moth specimens that appear to be first records for Devon. The remaining material will probably go to the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh. They are building a collection of international significance and David’s specimens will fill some gaps.
“Many of the specimens have details of where and when they were taken, which gives them genuine scientific value. We can’t keep the collection because it needs careful and knowledgeable care which we cannot provide, and we don’t want it to gradually deteriorate.”