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28 February 2012

We Will Continue To Save Scotland's Red Squirrels

The project to save Scotland’s red squirrels will continue for a further two years, Environment & Climate Change Minister Stewart Stevenson announced today.

Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels (SSRS) was a three year project, focussing on Scotland’s remaining red squirrel populations in the Highlands, Argyll, North East Scotland and northern Tayside. It ran from April 2009 to March 2012 and phase 2 of the project has been announced today. The new project will run for two years from April 2012.

Stewart Stevenson, Minister for Environment and Climate Change said:

“Red squirrels are one of Scotland’s most recognisable and loved animals. The work of SSRS in raising awareness of their plight in north-east Scotland is extremely important to preserving their future.

“In the three years since SSRS was formed, and together with the work being undertaken by Red Squirrels in South Scotland, we have seen some positive results as we work to halt the decline of the red squirrel numbers - in some regions, numbers are actually increasing. Today’s announcement will ensure that this vital work can continue for at least another two years.”


Today, there are between 200,000 and 300,000 grey squirrels in Scotland and only around 121,000 red squirrels. The new project will incorporate Red Squirrels in South Scotland and the fight to contain the threat from deadly squirrel pox disease in the Borders and Dumfries and Galloway. The SSRS project sets up targeted grey squirrel control in strategic areas in an effort to help red squirrels survive.

Funding for phase two of the SSRS project is provided by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), the Scottish Wildlife Trust and Forestry Commission Scotland. Other funders are urgently required to ensure the long term success of the project and the survival of the iconic red squirrel in Scotland.

SSRS Project Manager, Dr. Mel Tonkin said:

“This is great news for the red squirrel in Scotland. By renewing the Project for a further two years, we are taking another step towards securing the future of this iconic species.

“The Project has been a major success. With the Red Squirrels in South Scotland project, this is the first time that red squirrel conservation action at a national scale has been attempted. This project took potentially unpopular action that had no guarantee of success. It was a bold and visionary decision that the Project Partners and government ministers took.

“With rural development funding we have galvanised a whole network of landowners to act in concert, which is the only way we stand a chance of retaining the majority of Scotland’s substantial remaining populations of red squirrels.

“It has been a huge effort. Now we need to fine-tune it so that it can be financially sustained long term – and this is the job of the next phase of the Project.

“In South Scotland, both grey squirrel control and the monitoring of its effects need to be intensified at this time to take advantage of a never-to-be-repeated opportunity to work cross-border with the new Northern England Red Squirrel project in order to contain squirrelpox before it runs out of control.”


Ron Macdonald, SNH Head of Policy & Advice, said:

"We're delighted to continue supporting the Saving Scotland's Red Squirrel Project. During its first three years, the project has shown encouraging signs that targeted grey squirrel control can help safeguard red squirrel populations. We need to build on this success, finding out if control is sustainable in the long term, both to help protect red squirrels but also at a reasonable cost.

"Part of the reason for the project's success is how it has brought together a wide range of people and organisations interested in red squirrel survival, including environmental bodies, land managers, volunteers and local communities, galvanising and co-ordinating action where it is needed most. In the next two years, the project will continue to prevent grey squirrels from spreading into the currently red-only parts of Grampian, Tayside and Argyll, as well as the core populations in the Highlands. It will also include work in South Scotland to defend red squirrel populations there from exposure to the squirrel pox virus."
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