Last week, The Prince of Wales brought together a group of red squirrel preservation groups to promote a national approach to saving one of Britain’s best-loved and most endangered furry mammals.
After gathering at his Dumfries House last week, organisations such as the Red Squirrel Survival Trust, the Royal Forestry Society, Scottish Natural Heritage, the Duchy of Cornwall, Defra, the Scottish Government and the Forestry Commission agreed that a more co-ordinated approach is needed to tackle the threat posed by grey squirrels and the parapoxvirus they carry.
Although red squirrels are present in some areas-such as the Isle of Wight, where conservationists are battling to maintain the 3,500-strong population that thrives in the absence of greys-and reintroductions in the Isles of Scilly and Angelsey seem to be successful, there is much work to be done in culling greys from other regions, including the Lizard Peninsula and West Penwith in Cornwall, before further reintroductions can go ahead.
Defra Secretary Owen Paterson confirmed that he will be announcing a new ‘more detailed’ strategy later this year. ‘I would endorse the need to work together and to encourage the planting of new broadleaved woodlands, which not only encourage songbirds but provide economic and environmental benefits for future generations.’
His equivalent in Scotland, Paul Wheelhouse, adds: ‘It’s precisely because we want to continue making strong process in protecting red squirrels [in Caledonian strongholds] that we are confirming £40,000 funding for the squirrel-pox vaccination, reducing the impact of this disease carried by the nonnative grey.’
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