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New project to save Carmarthenshire red squirrels

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 10:46 UK time, Monday, 16 April 2012

A new project has begun to help save red squirrels in the Cothi and Gwenffrwd valleys in north-east Carmarthenshire.

The Mid Wales Red Squirrel Project, which has been running since 2002, has received £12,000 funding from Environment Wales to help support red squirrel conservation in the area around Llyn Brianne and the Tywi Forest.

The red squirrels here form one of only three key populations left in Wales, and the only one left in south Wales.

Isabel Macho, Biodiversity Officer with Carmarthenshire County Council, said: "We are really lucky still to have red squirrels in Carmarthenshire, and their protection is one of our conservation priorities."

"The unique nature of the Tywi forest has allowed them to survive here longer than in the rest of south Wales but they remain very vulnerable due to habitat loss and the impacts of grey squirrels."

A red squirrel by Margaret Holland

A red squirrel by Steve Davis

Dr Lizzie Wilberforce of the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales went on to explain, "Unfortunately, grey squirrels aren't native to Britain and have more or less replaced our native red squirrels throughout Wales."

Grey squirrels are much larger, out-compete reds for food and carry a disease called squirrel pox, which is fatal to red squirrels.

New funding has allowed the project to undertake a large survey of the Cothi and Gwenffrwd valleys to assess where squirrel activity can be observed and to engage landowners and other interested individuals in red squirrel conservation.

It has also supported a carefully designed programme of grey squirrel control that has been targeted to maximise the benefit for red squirrels in their core habitat.

Huw Denman, a private forester and member of the red squirrel project, said: "Small changes to the way woodlands are managed, like altering the proportions of tree species you plant, can make a huge difference to red squirrels survival."

Working with local landowners, the project hopes to create a better future for red squirrels in Wales.

Watch red squirrels on BBC Wildlife Finder

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