News: Heritage Lottery boost for red squirrel project

26th January 2016

Leading environmental charity, the Scottish Wildlife Trust, has received initial support from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for the Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels’ Developing Community Action project.

The project aims to develop a network of active voluntary red squirrel conservation groups. This is part of the programme of red squirrel protection work required to secure the long-term survival of the remaining core red squirrel populations across Scotland.

Development funding of £37,800 has also been awarded to help the Scottish Wildlife Trust progress their plans to apply for a full grant of £2.46 million at a later date.

The Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels project has been running for the last seven years, led by the Scottish Wildlife Trust in partnership with Scottish Natural Heritage, Forestry Commission Scotland, Scottish Land and Estates, RSPB Scotland and the Red Squirrel Survival Trust.

By capturing people’s natural enthusiasm for the charismatic red squirrel, the project aims to create communities of volunteers and land managers who are motivated, resourced and capable of acting together to protect red squirrels in their area

The project aims to raise awareness of the threats to red squirrels, holding red squirrel events, encouraging public involvement in red squirrel conservation and training hundreds of volunteers.

Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels is a nationally co-ordinated effort to save Scotland’s red squirrels, the UK’s only native squirrel species, which could yet become extinct on mainland Scotland if current action to protect it ceases.

Once widespread, red squirrels have undergone a catastrophic population decline primarily due to competition and disease from the non-native invasive, American grey squirrel. There are now only around 160,000 red squirrels remaining in the UK with 75% of the remaining UK red squirrel population found in Scotland. Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels was formed to reverse this decline.

Through a seven-year trial the innovative partnership has established that it is possible to halt the decline of red squirrels via co-ordinated grey squirrel control. Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels Developing Community Action will craft a sustainable programme to deliver this work over the long-term creating communities and landowner networks that are motivated and capable of acting together to protect red squirrels in their local area.

Project Manager of Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels, Dr Mel Tonkin, said: “We’re delighted that the Heritage Lottery Fund has given us this support. Our work over the last seven years has shown that it is possible to reverse the decline of our much-loved red squirrels and safeguard them for future generations, but to do this we need to keep up the protection work for a long time to come.

“People love red squirrels - we want to harness that enthusiasm and get communities involved in their conservation. This Heritage Lottery Fund grant will give us the chance to share our expertise with a range of people who are passionate about their local red squirrel population.”

Lucy Casot, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund in Scotland, said: “Catching a glimpse of an elusive red squirrel is a magical experience. Thanks to players of the National Lottery we are able to give our initial support to a project which will protect this rare creature. By working together, communities will give red squirrels the best chance of survival, so that their antics are a source of delight for all long into the future.”

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