Norfolk Red Squirrels To Be Sent To Isle Of Wight
Three more red squirrels, an increasingly rare sight in Britain, have been born in North Norfolk this year as a result of a successful captive breeding programme at Kelling Heath Holiday Park.
But the three youngsters at Kelling are travelling even further afield than previous litters - they are off to the Isle of Wight to help to produce a nucleus of captive bred stock for public viewing.
The latest births mean that a total of 12 red squirrels have been born at Kelling Heath since the programme was launched two years ago. And, with signs of further mating in progress, there are high hopes that more babies could be on the way.
The kittens, as young squirrels are known, are now approximately 3 months old, having spent the first 46 days of their lives out of sight with their mother in their nesting box. Now, the three healthy youngsters are regularly seen at play in their enclosure. They are expected to leave for the Isle of Wight on Friday (July 6th).
Kevin Hart, Kelling Heath Holiday Parks full time Countryside Manager, says the squirrel breeding programme is proving to be a great success:
"They are quite difficult to breed in captivity and the conditions need to be absolutely perfect before they will. We are thrilled that all our efforts have led to the birth of another set of triplets and we are excited that our efforts are helping another part of the country establish their own captive breeding colony."
"The Isle of Wight has a large number of people who are keen to conserve the red squirrel on the island, so an enclosure for education and public viewing is highly desirable."
"We very much hope that the breeding programme, at Flamingo Park on the Isle of Wight, will produce separate bloodlines to be introduced for breeding in the future."
Kelling Heaths breeding programme, part of a national initiative, aims to set up a reserve of animals which can be used for controlled and closely monitored release projects.
In addition to the three new arrivals, Kelling Heath currently has two female and one male squirrels, all of which were first bred and held by David Stapleford of Fakenham who has been studying the ecology and breeding of red squirrels for many years.
Kevin Hart says that, without captive breeding programmes, the red squirrel could well become extinct on mainland Britain:
"The reasons for the decline of the red squirrel population in mainland Britain are many and varied, but it is now a sad fact of life that very few people have actually seen a red in their natural habitat. Unless we encourage vital schemes like these, the species may be lost to us in England forever."
Mr. Hart says the reaction of visitors to the squirrel breeding programme at Kelling Heath has been tremendous:
"Our talks at feeding time and our information boards have been received exceptionally well. It is probably the case that this is the only time that many of our guests, especially children, have seen red squirrels close up and we are delighted to be helping their understanding about nature in this way."
Kelling Heath, near Holt in North Norfolk, is a holder of a silver award in the tourism industry Oscars, the England for Excellence Awards, and has also won a special award from the Norfolk Society - a branch of the Council for the Protection of Rural England - for promoting tourism in an environmentally sensitive way.