“Larva Croft” and the Pine Hoverfly set to make a strong comeback after successful conservation collaboration between STORY OF SEASONS publisher and Royal Zoological Society Scotland!

Rare native insect breeding programme hits new milestone in partnership with videogame publisher, Marvelous Europe and STORY OF SEASONS: Pioneers of Olive Town

Dr. Helen Taylor of RZSS with a new Pine Hoverfly Larvae incubation jar containing Larva Croft

London, UK – 14th April 2021 – The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS) is gearing up for a potentially record-breaking breeding season as keepers care for more Critically Endangered pine hoverflies than ever before at Highland Wildlife Park near Aviemore.

Led by the wildlife conservation charity since 2016, the pine hoverfly conservation breeding programme is now responsible for the majority of Britain’s known population of the rare native species, currently only found in one small forest in the Cairngorms. Almost all of the 156 larvae that hatched at the park last year are now becoming pupae, entering the next stage of their life cycle on their way to becoming adults. Among them are ‘Larva Croft’ and ‘Pine-al Ritchie’, named by fans of project-funder Marvelous’ new video game, STORY OF SEASONS: Pioneers of Olive Town.

Since the launch of STORY OF SEASONS: Pioneers of Olive Town on 26th March, videogames media have been taking part in a “seed grower contest” where Marvelous provided each entrant with a seed pack asking recipients to post updates of their seedlings each Friday on social media using #SoSPoOT and #PineHoverfly. The winner will be whoever has grown the tallest seeds and their prize is to name the new incubation room for the pine hoverfly at RZSS Highland Wildlife Park! Here are some images from the last 3 weeks worth of action

Dr Helen Taylor, conservation programme manager at RZSS said, “Our charity’s conservation breeding programme at Highland Wildlife Park is currently the best hope for the survival of this Critically Endangered species. The last sighting of an adult pine hoverfly in the wild was over eight years ago.”

“Every individual matters, so it is really exciting to have more larvae pupating than ever before and nerve-wracking to have to wait and see how many complete the full cycle, from egg, to larva, to pupa, to adult.”

“The process they go through is extraordinary. Inside the pupa case, these animals are breaking most of their body down into goo and then totally reassembling it to transition from a larva to an adult fly. Most people will be familiar with this idea from caterpillars turning into butterflies, but it really is a magical transformation.”

“Invertebrates are a fundamentally understudied, underacknowledged and under-loved group of animals that fuel the food chain, pollinate plants and break down organic waste. They hold our ecosystems together, making them an important focus for conservation efforts. Without them, the world would be very different.”

Next steps for the project including moving the pupae into a brand-new purpose-built breeding centre at Highland Wildlife Park in the coming weeks thanks to support from Marvelous Europe alongside The National Geographic Society, Cairngorms National Park Authority, Forestry and Land Scotland, and NatureScot. The pine hoverfly conservation breeding programme is led by RZSS in collaboration with the Rare Invertebrates in the Cairngorms project, a partnership between the RSPB, Cairngorms National Park Authority, Buglife Scotland, Butterfly Conservation Scotland, and NatureScot.

STORY OF SEASONS publisher saving one of the UK’s rarest species

£20,000 donation to bring the pine hoverfly back from the brink

London, United Kingdom – 22nd March 2021 – Marvelous Europe Limited, publisher of STORY OF SEASONS: Pioneers of Olive Town, is thrilled to announce a partnership with the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS), the wildlife conservation charity which aims to save one of the UK’s rarest species, the pine hoverfly.

With its natural habitat restricted to just one site — a small forest patch in the Cairngorms in Scotland — the pine hoverfly is so rare in the UK that no one has seen an adult of this species in the wild for over seven years. As part of the #SOSPOOT Campaign, Marvelous Europe is donating £20,000 to part-fund building new facilities at the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland’s Highland Wildlife Park. These will include a larval rearing room, space for the adult hoverflies to fly and mate, and preparation space for staff to ready the abundance of flowers the hoverflies need for food. With the money from Marvelous Europe and other donors, including The National Geographic Society, Cairngorms National Park Authority, Forestry and Land Scotland, and NatureScot, it is hoped that this conservation breeding programme will help bring the critically endangered pine hoverfly back from the edge of extinction.

Adult Pine Hoverfly – credit Ellie Rotheray

As well as a donation to develop the project, Marvelous Europe is working with partners to help raise awareness for the important work being undertaken by RZSS, with a Europe-wide seed growing competition for the gaming industry, kicking off with a special Twitch live stream from comedian, games journalist and one half of the UK’s Number 1 Parenting Podcast, “Scummy Mummies”, Ellie Gibson on Friday 26th March. Participants in the competition will get the chance to have a tangible impact on the species’ future, naming the hoverflies that will save the species, and winners will have a lasting impact, naming the new facilities that will keep this vital programme going for years to come.

In STORY OF SEASONS: Pioneers of Olive Town, which launches 26th March 2021 on the Nintendo Switch, players begin their farming journey in a pine forest and must work alongside nature to breathe life into their farm. By saving the pine hoverfly, we hope to bring a bit of the game world alive, while also helping to save an endangered UK species from the very real threat of extinction. It may be small, but the pine hoverfly is an important pollinator, a role shared by many of the world’s endangered invertebrates. The breeding programme is ‘pioneering’ in its own right, developing techniques that could turn the fortunes of other species that are vital to delicate ecosystems around the world.

About Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town:
The brand-new entry in the STORY OF SEASONS franchise is putting down roots on the Nintendo Switch! This long-awaited entry in the original farm/life simulation offers players more freedom than ever before! Embrace the pioneer spirit to shape the untamed wilderness, discover new animals and produce, and help them flourish on your farm. Customise every inch of your new homestead to impress a new cast of marriage candidates from Olive Town, an aspiring tourist hotspot that grows and thrives along with your farm.Key Features:

* A Wild World of Discovery: Tame the wilderness of the peninsula, discover the flora and fauna that make it their home and unearth the secrets of the world around you. Work with the land to build the farm of your dreams from the ground up. Build facilities wherever you see fit, level up your farming skills and craft everything from fences to sprinklers for crops!
* Cultivate Your Farm, Cultivate Your Town: Gather and process materials to fulfill requests and improve Olive Town’s infrastructure, upgrade tools, or commission new outfits and accessories
* Simple Mechanics, Deep Gameplay: Fledgling farmers can rest easy with the return of Seedling Mode and Normal Mode, with a new request system highlighting the fresh features while you lend a hand to the locals! Veteran players ready to create a bustling farm of their own will find all the core elements of the STORY OF SEASONS series, with new twists on classic gameplay.
* There’s Always Something Going on in Olive Town! Participate in local festivals as the town comes to life with events that are new to the series! Get to know your neighbours better and you may even find love with a special someone among them.