The much loved Red Squirrel may be making a comeback! And it's all thanks to the dedicated Animal Management Department at Merrist Wood College in Lingfield, Surrey
The native red squirrel has suffered hugely since its grey American rival landed here in the 19th century.
Its grey cousin brought over the squirrel pox virus, which is fatal to red squirrels. The greys, on the other hand, have built up natural immunity to the virus (lucky for some), so they were able to flourish while our favourite red national fauna was all buy wiped out.
According to the Forestry Commission there are about 140,000 red squirrels left in the wild, compared with more than two million greys. Yet, thanks to a breeding program at Merrist Wood College, some baby red squirrels recently took flight over to Tresco, in the Isles of Scilly, to boost a breeding experiment.
Picked up by Royal Navy Air Service helicopter from the British Wildlife Centre in Lingfield, the squirrels were flown like VIPs to their new home in the town’s beautiful Abbey Gardens.
As part of a national conservation campaign, it is hoped that this fledging colony of squirrels will continue to breed naturally and boost numbers of the endangered red squirrels on the island and ultimately, across the rest of the country.
“We are really proud to be involved in such an important project” said John Nutt, Director of Merrist Wood College.
"The students and staff are all fully committed to this conservation project and look forward to breeding more red squirrels in the future. Hopefully, with the introduction of our brand new Animal Management Centre next year we can get involved in other worthwhile projects too."
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