The Red Squirrel Survival Trust (patron HRH The Prince of Wales) is a national body that aims to re-introduce the native red squirrel widely within the United Kingdom. The Red Squirrel South West (RSSW) is a new regional organisation which aims actively to apply this policy within the South West.
Since red and grey varieties cannot survive together (greys carry a virus which is fatal to reds), elimination of greys within those areas destined for reds is a key first step for the project. This activity must then be followed closely by the careful establishment of pockets of red populations in cleared areas. The interest created by these new red colonies is important if public enthusiasm for the project is to be maintained over what is likely to be a protracted campaign.
Escot will fulfil four key roles in this venture. It will become a centre:
- for breeding reds ready to deploy to new areas
- for public education about the plight of the reds in general and this project in particular
- for further research, and in due course,
- as an early test site for soft release.
Escot is well suited to these tasks in that:
- ample scope for monitored breeding centres is available within the estate
- the project fits well with Escot’s ongoing programme of conservation
- the number of visitors to the estate (currently in excess of 50,000 annually and growing) will supply a ready audience for the project
- buildings are available on the estate for research purposes
- the estate is an ideal location for carefully monitored early soft release
Escot’s existing infrastructure, together with its ongoing programme of grey eradication, is well placed to support the project.