AN extinct New Forest species is set to be reintroduced to the area via Paultons Park.

 The New Forest Cicada, Cicadetta montana, was once found across the forest but there have been no confirmed sightings since the 1990s.

Now, a team of experts, including animal keepers at Paultons Park, are planning to catch cicadas of the same species in Slovenia, bring them back to England and start a new population.

Bringing live adults back to the UK has never been attempted before, and any cicada nymphs that hatch this year will spend the next six to eight years underground feeding on plant roots, so it will be impossible to know whether the first step of the reintroduction has been successful until 2030 at the earliest.

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The project is being led by the Species Recovery Trust (SRT).

Hampshire Chronicle: New Forest Cicada, Cicadetta montanaNew Forest Cicada, Cicadetta montana (Image: Jaroslav Maly)

Charlotte Carne, lead project officer, said: “This whole project is a really exciting experiment: the adult cicadas are going to be extremely hard to spot, and although they do sing, it's pretty much impossible to hear the song if you're over 30 so we have to use bat detectors. Our officers are going out to Slovenia for just three days and we might not catch any cicadas. Even if we do, we then need to wait six years to find out if the first generation makes it to adulthood.

“It's so exciting, but also a little tense!”

Natural England has given the Trust £28,000 as part of its Species Recovery Programme to bring the population back from the dead. The project is also being supported by the Valentine Charitable Trust.

The work will start in earnest in June when SRT founder Dominic Price and conservation officer Holly Stanworth fly to Slovenia.

There they will team up with Slovenian entomologist Matija Gogala, as well as a geopark officer, and spend three days hunting through the undergrowth for cicadas to catch, with the team hoping to capture five males and five females.

Hampshire Chronicle: One of the specialised habitatsOne of the specialised habitats (Image: Pete Hughes)

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Charlotte will then take the cicadas to Paultons Park, where they will be placed in a specialised habitat with the hopes they will mate and produce nymphs, which will be reintroduced to the New Forest.

Charlotte continued: "The New Forest Cicada doesn’t have a super-important ecological role, but I think it has a real intrinsic value as the only cicada species native to the UK. For me, there’s also something about the fact that their calls haven’t been heard for decades.

“I want my children to be able to walk through the forest in 10 or 20 years and hear them; to really experience the sounds of the New Forest.”