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Nutkin Ventured, Nutkin Gained

23 July 2013

redsquirrel198x143Chester Zoo is of course heavily involved in the conservation of exotic species such as the critically endangered Eastern black rhino, Asian elephant and Sumatran orangutan.

But we also believe that conservation is as important here in the UK as it is anywhere else. There are some fascinating native species that need our help, right here on our doorstep and we’re thrilled to be part of a mission to reintroduce the charming red squirrel.

Image © Derek Foulkes 2013 - Juvenile Red Squirrel born in the Dingle 2013

Local volunteers have played a key role in successfully reintroducing the red squirrel to Llangefni Dingle local nature reserve. The work has formed part of the £384,000 ‘Hafan y Wiwer Goch’ project run by Red Squirrels Trust Wales and was funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, Chester Zoo, and Anglesey County Council.

Four captive bred red squirrels were originally released into the community woodland between February and November 2012. The animals were housed in a small forest enclosure for a few weeks having arrived from Pensthorpe in Norfolk, Shrepreth Wildlife Park in Hertfordshire and the Welsh Mountain Zoo in Colwyn Bay.

Once allowed out the animals bred and the population has flourished with red squirrels colonizing the mixed broadleaved stands of the Dingle, adjacent town gardens, and the nearby Cefni woodlands managed by Natural Resources Wales. Local people were involved in every stage of the reintroduction; Parys Training constructed the release enclosure and volunteers released the red squirrels and monitor at a network of red squirrel feeding stations.

Dr Craig Shuttleworth of Red Squirrels Trust Wales said, “We would like to applaud the efforts of the local community, Anglesey County Council staff and our partners involved in the Llangefni project. Special thanks go to the National Lottery Fund and Chester Zoo for their support in making the return of the red squirrels a reality.’’

The red squirrel reintroduction forms part of an international effort to safeguard critically endangered species.

Red squirrels on Anglesey were close to extinction in 1997 when fewer than 40 remained amongst some 4,000 resident grey squirrels. Today, there are 600 red squirrels on the island and no grey squirrels have been found in 2013 making the island a national refuge for the native red.

Liz Halliwell from Natural Resources Wales, which manages the Cefni woodlands said, "It is excellent news that the red squirrel reintroduction is proving so successful. Improving the urban areas like this in our towns and cities is one of our main priorities. This woodland creates a wonderful opportunity for local people to spot this elusive species in the wild."

Nick Jackson, Zoological Director at the Welsh Mountain Zoo - National Zoo of Wales, said, “We are proud to have played our part in the re-establishment of red squirrels on the island of Anglesey. The recent reintroduction to the Dingle, Llangefni is particularly pleasing as it provides an excellent opportunity for the residents and visitors to see and learn more about this beautiful, iconic native mammal that has been saved from local extinction.”

Later this summer a large red squirrel interpretation and information panel will be erected by Anglesey County Council in the Dingle and this will enable visitors to learn more about the species and the local nature reserve.

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