Scottish Land and Estates is delighted to continue its support of the Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels (SSRS) Project, which has just been awarded a grant of £2.46 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for the SSRS – Developing Community Action project (SSRS-DCA).
It is now estimated that there are now only c.160, 000 red squirrels remaining in the UK, of which 120,000 occur in Scotland – 75% of the remaining UK red squirrel population. Once widespread, red squirrels have undergone a catastrophic population decline, the main threat to native squirrels comes from competition with invasive non-native grey squirrels and the spread of the deadly squirrel-pox virus.
Launched in 2009 the SSRS project focuses upon this charismatic and well-loved mammal and was formed to reverse its decline and create the conditions for this species to thrive in future. Over the last eight years the innovative SSRS partnership trial project has established that it is possible to halt the decline of red squirrels over a wide area via strategically targeted and co-ordinated landscape-scale grey squirrel control. The initiative has enabled reds to re-establish in many areas.
The project will develop a more sustainable way to deliver this programme over long-term; moving away from reliance on paid staff towards creating communities that are supported, motivated and capable of acting together to protect red squirrels in their local area.
The project will create widespread understanding and appreciation of the current risks to red squirrels and demonstrate the methods used to successfully protect red squirrels. An army of 800 volunteers will be sought to secure the long-term survival of major red squirrel populations, by building capacity among communities of volunteers and land managers, empowering them to take ownership of some of the essential protection measures required to save the nation’s red squirrels.
Over the next five years the project will enlist volunteers from communities in its three regions of work to carry out practical work to protect and strengthen red squirrel populations in their local area and in turn safeguard red squirrels across Scotland.
In Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire, where grey squirrel populations have been significantly reduced in the last eight years, the project will continue to work towards making the area a grey-squirrel free zone by developing a rapid response system to detect and remove residual individuals.
In the Central Lowlands, coordinated control of grey squirrels will prevent them from becoming established north of the ‘Highland Line’ – home to the UK’s largest population of red squirrels that are unaffected by greys.
In Southern Scotland, work will focus on eight Priority Areas for Red Squirrel Conservation (PARCs). SSRS will create networks of local people who are able to make an important ecological impact by monitoring squirrel numbers and trapping greys that would otherwise oust local red squirrels, making them more resilient to changes and safeguarding important populations for Scotland.
Going forward the programme of work will build together large networks of volunteers championing this charismatic creature into one coordinated and strategic force for good ensuring that future generations can continue to see these special animals.
Dr Mel Tonkin, Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels Project Manager said: “Our work since 2009 shows that through targeted control of grey squirrels it is possible to reverse the decline of our native reds and help them to return to former territories.
The SSRS project is led by the Scottish Wildlife Trust in partnership with Scottish Natural Heritage, Forestry Commission Scotland, Scottish Land & Estates, RSPB Scotland and the Red Squirrel Survival Trust.
For further information on Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels or to find out how you can get involved in the project visit their website.
Karen Ramoo, Policy Officer (Conservation and Wildlife Management)