Environment & Climate Change Minister Stewart Stevenson has announced that the Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels (SSRS) project will be funded for a further two years following the success of phase 1 of the successful three year project which is coming to an end.
Phase 2 of the SSRS project will run for a further two years from April 2012 and aims to build on the progress achieved through the culling of the non-native North American grey squirrel which has seen a halt in the decline of the native reds in some areas and an increase in reds in others.
The grey squirrel is an immune carrier of the lethal squirrel pox virus which wipes out the native red squirrel – after infection, entire populations of reds break out in lesions that leave them unable to eat and they quickly starve to death.
Over the lifetime of SSRS phase 1, a total of 7,483 grey squirrels were culled – the effectiveness of the project has been in the coordinating of different groups and organisations, as well as a whole network of landowners on a national scale in Scotland.
SSRS Project Manager, Dr. Mel Tonkin said:
“This project took potentially unpopular action that had no guarantee of success. It was a bold and visionary decision that the Project Partners and Scottish government ministers took.
“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.”
Stewart Stevenson, Minister for Environment and Climate Change said:
“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 numbers are actually increasing.
“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.”