Prince Charles has released a male red squirrel at Trewithen, near Probus, as part of his 60th year celebrations as Duke of Cornwall.
His Royal Highness, who is President of the Red Squirrel Survival Trust, was said to be thrilled with the honour of unveiling the new addition on a recent visit to the estate near Probus.
The male red squirrel, which was born at Paradise Park in March, joins two females in a specially built enclosure to make up the second breeding population in Cornwall.
Red squirrels are one of the most threatened mammals in the UK – they are both out competed by the greys for food and habitat and are also at risk of the fatal small pox disease, which is carried and spread by the greys. As a result of the incursion of grey squirrels, reds have been extinct in Cornwall since 1984.
Trewithen's owner, Michael Galsworthy, is a founding member of the Cornwall Red Squirrel Project (CRSP), which aims to educate people about the plight of the red squirrel and reintroduce this popular native mammal back into Cornwall.
He said: "I am thrilled that Prince Charles was able to release the first male squirrel into our breeding enclosure. It was his active and personal encouragement that allowed us to set up the CRSP, and it is fitting that he has been involved in the final step towards offering homebred red squirrels to the national breeding programme."
Natasha Collings, CRSP co-ordinator, was on hand to witness the red squirrel's release. She said:
"It was a really exciting moment to see Prince Charles release the red squirrel from his travelling box. The squirrel took a little while to adjust to his surroundings but is now settled in and playing with his two female companions.
"We are looking forward to seeing offspring from the breeding trio in spring next year, although we may be lucky enough to have a late litter of kits this year."
Prince Charles is the latest in a long line of royal visitors to Trewithen, the first of whom was King George V and Queen Mary in 1927.
Ends 09 July 2012