A new project in the Cothi and Gwenffrwd valleys in north-east Carmarthenshire has seen conservationists, foresters and volunteers coming together to take action this spring to help save the mid Wales red squirrels.
The Mid Wales Red Squirrel Project, which has been running since 2002, 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 in this area form one of only three key populations left in Wales, and the only one remaining in the south of the country. 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 to habitat loss and the impacts of grey squirrels”. Dr Lizzie Wilberforce of the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales went on to explain, “unfortunately, grey squirrels aren’t native to Britain- they were imported from north America, and have more or less replaced our native red squirrels throughout Wales. Grey squirrels are much larger- they out-compete reds for food, and they also carry a disease called squirrel pox, which is not harmful to grey squirrels, but is fatal to red squirrels”.
The new funds from Environment Wales have 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 “it has been a great benefit to be able to work with so many landowners and draw their attention to their special red squirrels. 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. Every person we talk to who makes a small change on their own land contributes massively to the long term outlook for our red squirrels”.
Members of the project hope to continue the efforts of this spring and continue with their work with local landowners and create a better future for red squirrels in Wales.
This work was supported by Environment Wales, with funding from the Welsh Government, and by the Countryside Council for Wales as part of its programme of research into sustaining natural beauty, wildlife and outdoor enjoyment in rural Wales and its inshore waters.
For more information:
Dr Lizzie Wilberforce, Conservation Manager
07970 780553 firstname.lastname@example.org
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The Mid Wales Red Squirrel Project
The Mid Wales Red Squirrel Project is a partnership of Carmarthenshire, Powys and Ceredigion County Councils, Foresty Commission Wales, Countryside Council for Wales, Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales, Brecknock Wildlife Trust, National Trust, private forest managers and interested individuals. The group was established in 2002. The aims of the project are:
- To establish more widespread and reliable baseline data on the distribution of red squirrels in the mid-Wales area
- To establish a more accurate estimate of population size
- To assess the levels of threats to the population and take action to reduce them (e.g. grey squirrel incursion, presence of pox virus)
- To increase the extent and quality of red squirrel habitat available
The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales is the largest charitable organisation working exclusively on all aspects of wildlife conservation in South and West Wales. Registered Charity Number: 1091562. www.welshwildlife.org
The Wildlife Trust works for a better future for all kinds of wildlife across South and West Wales. Our mission is to protect and improve habitats and wildlife in our local area as well as helping people to enjoy and understand their local wildlife.
We achieve our aims by:
Acquiring and managing nature reserves – we currently manage over 90 nature reserves throughout South and West Wales (including Skomer and Skokholm islands). From ancient woodland to wetland, wildflower meadow to marsh, reed bed to heathland, they contain a rich variety of species, many extremely rare. These nature reserves form a land holding equal to approximately 4,000 acres. Of these reserves10 lie within Special Areas of Conservation and Special Protection Areas, seven are National Nature Reserves (NNRs), 40 are Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) and five are Scheduled Ancient Monuments.
Acting as wildlife champions – by advising on policy and planning, campaigning on wildlife issues, and protecting wildlife beyond our reserves. We provide habitat and species management advice directly to those managing land and we also work with key partners and local people to promote habitat enhancement and restoration.
Helping people understand, protect and celebrate their environment – the Trust promotes the view that people from all sections of society should have access to wildlife and the natural world for enjoyment, learning, and well-being. We invest in the future by helping all ages to gain a better understanding of nature. Our work with schools and our junior club, Wildlife Watch, is enjoyed by hundreds of children.