Royal Mail has revealed a set of six stamps that celebrate the reintroduction of flora and fauna previously extinct or endangered in the UK.

The stamps show the Eurasian Beaver, Pool Frog, Sand Lizard, Large Blue Butterfly, Osprey and Stinking Hawks-beard.

It is estimated that more than 400 species of animals and plants that have become extinct over the past two centuries in the UK. However, conservationists have successfully reintroduced various species across the country.

At the present time there are more than 900 native species in the UK classified as under threat, with others in significant decline.

Royal Mail spokesperson, Philip Parker said: “When a plant or animal become extinct in a country, that does not have to be the end of the story. Our beautiful new stamps mark the skill and expertise of conservationists in reintroducing species back to their former environments.”

The stamps feature original illustrations Wiltshire based artist, Tanya Achilleos Lock.

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Osprey

After being persecuted and losing eggs to collectors, in 1916 ospreys were recorded as an extinct breeding species in Scotland, almost 70 years after their disappearance from England. Their natural recolonisation of Scotland in the 1950s led to a slow growth in population, but with a limited spread as the males usually returning to breed close to where they hatched. By the mid-1990s there were around 100 pairs in the UK, mainly in the Highlands. In 1996, 64 young birds from the Highlands were trans-located to Rutland Water in England and by 2001 some had returned from migration to rear young in England for the first time in 150 years. Ospreys also breed in the Lake District, Kielder Forest in Northumberland and in Wales.

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Large Blue Butterfly

In 1979, it was declared that this fragile, beautiful butterfly had become extinct in the UK, its last site being Dartmoor in Devon. The species would become an important icon for extinction, its demise leading to a robust reintroduction programme – one destined to be far from straightforward due to an elaborate life cycle, its larvae feeding on the grubs of a single species of red ant, making the ants as much a focus of conservation as the butterfly. However, the success of its reintroduction has been immense. By 2006, an estimated 10,000 eggs were laid across 11 sites in south-west England. Ten years later, it was recorded that over 250,000 eggs had been laid on wild marjoram and wild thyme plants at two reserves in Gloucestershire and Somerset.

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Eurasian Beaver

Eurasian beavers were once widespread across Europe, but were hunted to near extinction for their fur, meat and castoreum (a secretion from the base of their tails that was used in the perfume trade). The species disappeared from England, Wales and Scotland by the 16th century, but since then Europe’s largest native rodent has been successfully reintroduced over most of the continent. In the UK, beavers were released into Knapdale Forest, Argyll, in 2009 as part of the Scottish Beaver Trial, which concluded in 2014. With the birth of several kits, the beaver population is growing. In England, Devon’s River Otter Beaver Trial began in 2015 and will conclude in 2020.

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Pool Frog

The native UK status of the pool frog was debated over many years, but research into its genetics and ‘regional accent’ later proved that it had occurred naturally in at least two sites in East Anglia. By 1995, though, the species had disappeared. Damage to and loss of its Breckland and Fenland habitats due to agricultural intensification and drainage were cited as the principal causes of its demise. However, from 2005 to 2008, pool frogs from Sweden were reintroduced into a site in Norfolk whose habitat had been specially enhanced to improve the species’ chance of survival. The conservation efforts proved successful, as the pool frog population in this area has since grown and become well established.

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Stinking Hawk’s-beard

This ‘dandelionesque’ plant has never had a common UK presence, being limited to the coastal shingle of Kent and Essex, and scattered inland sites mainly in south-east England, on chalk and sandy soils. Most populations were lost in the early 1900s, persisting only at Dungeness in Kent until 1980. Seed from Dungeness was collected, stored and cultivated at the University of Cambridge, and has since been propagated and reintroduced to several nature reserves, in accordance with its very particular growth requirements – disturbed and well-drained ground in warm locations. Despite some early failures – not least because rabbits enjoy eating it – there is now a large reintroduced population at Rye Harbour in East Sussex, and another has been rediscovered at Dungeness.

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Sand Lizard

Sand lizards approach the northern edge of their European range in the UK, resulting in some very specific habitat requirements. Sandy lowland heaths have been the species’ stronghold, but over the last century 80 per cent of these warm, dry, heather-covered areas have been lost, which resulted in colonies of this species becoming isolated, vulnerable and fewer in number. Fortunately, with more than 70 successful reintroductions of over 9,000 lizards, captive breeding has helped to end their decline. They now live in protected heathland sites in Dorset, Hampshire and Surrey, and in protected dune systems on Merseyside, and have also been re-established at sites in North and West Wales, Devon, Cornwall, Kent and West Sussex.