The Trust is celebrating after its red squirrel project was recognised for its groundbreaking work in protecting the iconic native species.
Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels plays a key role in Aberdeen City Council’s conservation programme, which was chosen as joint winner in the coveted ‘Species Champion’ category at last night’s Nature of Scotland Awards. The programme was recognised for its successful work in Aberdeen and surrounding areas.
The red squirrel is the UK’s only native squirrel and numbers have declined rapidly since the introduction of grey squirrels from North America in the 19th Century. Greys have replaced the native reds in much of the UK because they compete for food and habitat, and transmit the deadly squirrelpox virus.
Since 1952, 95% of red squirrels in England and Wales have been wiped out. Today, 75% of the UK’s remaining population is found in Scotland. In Aberdeen, the red squirrel population was rapidly disappearing from the city and surrounding countryside after grey squirrels were released into parks in the 1970s.
Thanks to the commitment of Aberdeen City Council and funding from Aberdeen Greenspace, Biffa Award, Forestry Commission Scotland and Red Squirrel Survival Trust, an intensive trapping programme by Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels to remove the grey squirrel from across Aberdeen and rural Aberdeenshire has meant red squirrels have returned to the city’s parks and are breeding once again in suburban gardens.
Chief Executive of the Scottish Wildlife Trust, Jonny Hughes, said: “The Scottish Wildlife Trust is delighted that the Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels project has been recognised alongside Aberdeen City Council for the fantastic work it is doing in Aberdeen.
“Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels' success comes from working with city rangers, local householders and land managers in a regionally coordinated effort and demonstrates why partnership is important in nature conservation.
“I would like to thank the very hardworking staff involved in the project in the region for helping to ensure red squirrels remain part of the Scottish landscape for future generations to enjoy.”
Project Manager for Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels, Mel Tonkin, said: “It is great news that Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels has been recognised for its work with Aberdeen City Council.
“Aberdeen City Council has championed the resurgence of red squirrels in the area for many years by introducing measures such as restructuring woodland to favour red squirrels, grey squirrel control and increasing the connectivity of its woodlands.
“This highlights how important local authorities can be in the movement to improve the quality of the environment for red squirrels and other wildlife for the benefit of their citizens.”
Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels is a project to stop the decline of Scotland’s core red squirrel populations, to protect squirrels from squirrelpox disease in South Scotland, and to improve conditions for viable red squirrel populations across Scotland. It is a partnership project between the Scottish Wildlife Trust, Scottish Natural Heritage, Forestry Commission Scotland, Scottish Land and Estates, and the Red Squirrel Survival Trust.
For more information visit the project website.