Last gasp of the iconic red squirrel?
Red squirrels under siege as conservation groups suffer financial squeeze
2nd September, 2011
In the second of our 'wildlife at risk' series, Sam Campbell reports how habitat loss, disease and funding cuts leave the iconic red squirrel facing a bleak future
Iconic and beloved, for many the red squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris) is the most quintessentially British of wildlife. But assailed by habitat loss and disease, the species could soon become a forgotten footnote in natural history.
A study recently released by Eden TV suggests the red squirrel could become extinct in England in the next few years and in the UK in 20 years. The species is currently 'almost extinct' in England with only a few thousand remaining in Wales.
Prince Charles succinctly expressed the disbelief many British people likely share. 'Our squirrels are facing a battle for survival. It seems almost incomprehensible to me that we have allowed this situation to happen.'
The squirrels’ decline has been precipitous – 95 per cent of the original population in England has been lost over the last 50 years, according to the Eden study. The most recent estimates of red squirrel population size compiled by Harris et al in 1995 put total red squirrel numbers in Britain at 161,000, with approximately 30,000 in England, 10,000 in Wales (although recent estimates are significantly lower), and a population of 121,000 in Scotland, representing 70-75 per cent of the GB...
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