Rural campaigner Prince Charles was happy to be seeing red whilst on the Balmoral Estate in Scotland last week, as the local squirrels and the Prince have become so familiar that they even visit him in his office.
Charles was thrilled to be playing host to the ‘most irresistible of British native mammals’, for whom he has been an ardent supporter. Recently the Prince became the Patron of the Red Squirrel Survival Trust , a national body established to ensure the conservation and protection of the red squirrel in the UK.
Red squirrels have been declining across the UK since the introduction of greys over 100 years ago, and now survive only in pockets of England, Wales and Scotland.
‘Unlike many people in this country I am lucky enough to see red squirrels at Birkhall, on the Balmoral Estate, where I have been indulging them with hazelnuts. They have become remarkably tame and are coming into the house,’ said Prince Charles at the launch of the Trust.
The Prince is indeed so fond of these ‘utterly charming creatures’ that he has suggested that they should become our national mascot, and even has a topiary tree fashioned into the shape of a squirrel at his Highgrove residence in Gloucestershire.
In return the squirrels seem keen to become acquainted with their royal neighbour. ‘Sometimes sitting at my desk at Birkhall I hear the pitter-patter of tiny feet, and occasionally they do the ‘wall of death’ around my office. They are very special creatures,’ he added.
Charles is insistent that the red squirrel could become entirely extinct within the space of a decade, if measures currently in place to curb its’ decline are unsuccessful. Furthermore he cited the plight of the red squirrel and the honey bee as examples of man’s short-sightedness in an increasingly throw away society, and remarked: ‘as stewards of this earth we should all feel deeply ashamed.’
Scotland is home to about 75% of the UK’s remaining red squirrels. For more information on red squirrels, or to find out how to help go to www.rsst.org.uk