The goal of reintroducing native red squirrels to Cornwall took a leap in the right direction last week when two kits born last summer were moved to new locations in the county.
The youngsters, one male, one female, were collected from the enclosure they have shared with their parents since birth by keepers from Paradise Park in Hayle. Paradise Park has been breeding red squirrels for 17 years as part of the Cornwall Red Squirrel Project.
The kits were carefully loaded into travel boxes – hay lined to keep them calm and secure – and have been introduced to unrelated young squirrels in the hope they will breed within the next couple of years.
Red squirrels are officially the traditional native breed of squirrel in the UK. When grey squirrels were introduced in the 1870s, without regulation, the red squirrels were out competed for in terms of both food and space. Not only are the greys larger, they also carry and spread the squirrel pox disease, which is fatal to red squirrels and has resulted in them becoming one of the most threatened species of mammal in the UK.
In March 2012, we took delivery of two female red squirrels and then, in July 2012, Prince Charles, who is President of the Red Squirrel Survival Trust, released a male into the enclosure to make up the second breeding population in Cornwall.
Owner of Trewithen, Michael Galsworthy, said: “As a boy I remember seeing many red squirrels running all over the garden, but by the mid 1980s they had all gone. We were delighted when the kits were born last year and, although we shall miss them, we’re very happy they are moving to new homes where they will, hopefully, have kits of their own, further boosting the red squirrel population in Cornwall.”