The efforts of conservationists were rewarded when four red squirrels were born in captivity at Wildwood Discovery Park near Canterbury in Kent. The birth of red squirrels will help to save the native British species from extinction.
Before 1940’s red squirrels were quite common throughout Britain, but when the large grey squirrel from America was introduced, their habitat was lost, bringing a drastic decline of this species. As a matter of fact grey squirrels breed successfully than red and also compete for food in a better way.
Currently only 160,000 red squirrels in the wilds of Britain are left in comparison to 2.5 million greys and are confined to northern England, Scotland and parts of Wales.
Wildwood’s chief executive Peter Smith said:
Red squirrels are going to continue to decline towards extinction unless urgent action is taken.It is not yet too late – if we can help restore areas of woodland to a native state and make a concerted effort to reintroduce babies born in captivity into the wild we might just be able to tip the balance back in the red squirrel’s favour.
Ten years back a conservation project was launched on Anglesey, off the north coast of Wales. It was then found that only 30 red squirrels were left on the island. The project has helped in increasing the squirrel population to more than 100 in the wild on Anglesey, however several squirrels were also born with deformities due to inbreeding. The babies born in the captivity are widening the genetic base of the population on the island.
The red squirrel keepers are hopeful that they will see more births in coming days. The new ones will be transported to Anglesey to live in the wild and aid the conservation project.