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Red squirrel conservation to receive £550k funding.


More than £550,000 of funding is to be made available to help with the conservation of red squirrels in Northern Ireland, the environment minister has announced.


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Story by UTV Staff, Belfast

It was previously announced that the region would get a share of £1.2m being provided by the Heritage Lottery and EU Life Plus funds.

It's part of a UK wide project aimed at reducing populations of grey squirrels and educating the public about red squirrel conservation.

Grey squirrels have been shown to outcompete red squirrels for food resources and can carry a disease called squirrel-pox, which is fatal to red squirrels.

Environment Minister Mark H Durkan welcomed the funding announcement, saying: “This funding is a real boost for the work of the Northern Ireland Squirrel Forum.

“A reduction in grey squirrel numbers in Northern Ireland is critical to the long term survival prospects of our native red squirrel population.

“The continued spread of grey squirrels in the North has had a major impact on our populations of native red squirrels so the work of the Northern Ireland Squirrel Forum is essential.


“This Forum is made up of eight squirrel groups who work to promote red squirrel conservation within their local areas.

“I have seen first-hand their important work which includes measures such as controlling grey squirrels, feeding red squirrels, fundraising and raising public awareness about red squirrel conservation.

“This also provides a great opportunity to enhance community engagement in this vital conservation work.

“I congratulate Ulster Wildlife who worked closely with the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) to secure this funding which will help protect and preserve our red squirrel population.”

According to Ulster Wildlife, the reds were once common across the British Isles but have rapidly declined since the 1950s.

Numbers in the UK have fallen from around 3.5 million, to a current estimated population of around 120,000, while numbers are as low as 40,000 on the island of Ireland.

There are only a handful of refuges left for red squirrels in Northern Ireland.

Strongholds include Glens of Antrim, west Fermanagh, south Armagh and the Ards Peninsula, but grey squirrels continue to threaten populations in those areas.