An exciting new development for the red squirrel project in mid-Wales!
We are currently in the middle of trapping red squirrels across the Mid Wales Red Squirrel Partnership (MWRSP) project area.
Previous work has already confirmed a unique DNA sequence to mid-Wales, we have confirmed this is still present in the population, and early results show another unknown haplotype.
The goal of the current work is to provide us with a better estimate of the population numbers in mid-Wales.
Red squirrels need your help however
The information and research that we undertake as part of the MWRSP is vital for improving conditions for red squirrels. Research evidence helps us to better understand where our conservation efforts need to be focused.
We can also use this information to encourage other Project participants such as land owners, Natural Resource Wales and the Welsh Government about how we can all work towards conservation goals to benefit wildlife.
But the unique mid-Wales haplotype might be lost. The MWRSP only has 6 months of funding left, which means that work to help the red squirrels in mid-Wales may stop if we can’t find funds to continue.
To continue to stage 3 of the project, the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales needs to raise £10,000 to fund work on the ground of the next important years.
This will ensure we can:
- continue to maintain and enhance habitats for red squirrels
- work to restore some key areas that could be improved to make them more suitable for red squirrels
- work towards supporting the population, possibly with a reintroduction programme if the results of our current work show the population is declining.
- Work to preserve the local adaptations of the unique mid Wales haplotype
Red squirrel numbers in the UK have fallen from around 3.5 million in the 1870s to between 120,000 and 140,000 individuals (according to different estimates.
We’re finally seeing positive results with more and more sightings of red squirrels in mid Wales, but it is vital that we continue to encourage and protect these iconic native animals.
The Wildlife Trust’s Red Squirrel Officer, Sarah Kay-Purdon works with a team of dedicated volunteers to track down and monitor red squirrels in mid Wales.
Previous work has confirmed five different haplotypes present in mid-Wales. So far, we have already confirmed that the unique mid-Wales haplotype is still present in the population, and early results show we have picked up another haplotype, which looks to be different again to all known haplotypes.
What’s a Haplotype?
Haplotype is a genetic marker, a DNA sequence that can help us to understand the genetic make-up and ancestry of an animal.
Put simply, haplotype is a close-knit group of genes which an offspring inherits from one parent.
What does this mean for Red Squirrels and their conservation?
Firstly, it means that the work our team are doing to help maintain and improve the habitat for red squirrels in mid Wales is incredibly important. This evidence also tells us that the red squirrels in mid Wales have a high level of genetic diversity. This means that our conservation work and efforts are more likely to be successful because having a diverse gene pool helps populations to adapt to changing environments.
With more variation, it is more likely that some red squirrels in mid Wales will have variations in their genes which are suited to the environment.
These individuals are also more likely to survive and produce kits (baby squirrels) that will also have these beneficial genes. All music to the ears of the project staff and volunteers! Our fingers are crossed that we have some new kits in mid Wales come spring next year.
Sarah-Kay Purdon has celebrated these early results: “it’s really good news that we’ve confirmed the mid-Wales haplotype is still present, and possibly have found another. We’re really excited to see the rest of the results and find out the family tree of our squirrels” she said “it’s now more important than ever to have the next steps planned. We need to be able to act on the results.”
Please Donate to our Red Squirrel AppealForm for fundraising appeals for the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales
How can you get involved?
There are many different ways in which you can help!
We’re always on the look out for more volunteers and of course funding and kind donations.
We are hoping to raise the £10,000 needed to continue this project and will also be looking to gain funding through grants, Trust funds and individual donors like you who want to see red squirrels thrive in mid Wales.
If any of these are you, please email Sarah on email@example.com, contact us on 01656 724100 or donate by clicking the button to the right.