Michael the Flying Red Squirrel

Photo by Paul Harry

Photo by Paul Harry

Photo by Paul Harry

Photo by Paul Harry

Help support and protect our precious native red squirrel

On Saturday 13th July, wildlife enthusiast Michael Cunningham will jump out of a plane to raise vital funds for the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales’ Mid Wales Red Squirrel Project.

The aim of the Mid Wales Red Squirrel Project is to protect and expand the unique population of red squirrels in the Tywi Forest, one of only three key populations left in Wales. Grey squirrels in Wales now outnumber red squirrels by more than 320 to 1. This is a crucial time to save this iconic species.

Once common throughout the UK, red squirrels have disappeared from many areas of England and Wales and are threatened in Scotland and Northern Ireland. They are now largely confined to Scotland, with small populations in areas of North and Mid Wales, Northern Ireland and parts of Northern England. Unfortunately, red and grey squirrels cannot live side by side; when grey squirrels arrive in a red squirrel area, the red squirrels will die out if there is no intervention.

A native of North America, the grey squirrel first arrived in mid Wales in the 1950s, and has spread at an alarming rate, colonising Wales so effectively, that they are now the dominant squirrel species. As well as competing for food and habitat, the grey squirrel carries the Squirrel Pox virus, which has little effect on the grey but is fatal when passed to the red.

The five year Mid Wales Red Squirrel Project has built a solid volunteer base and has raised the profile of the red squirrel in Mid Wales; volunteers have donated over 10,000 hours of their time to the project. Volunteer surveys have helped to build a more complete picture of where red squirrels are thriving and where they are not. Since 2014, reports of red squirrel sightings in mid Wales have risen by over 100% compared to the previous five years, suggesting that the red squirrel population in Mid Wales is beginning to make a recovery.

This is a crucial time to build on the good work already achieved by the project, but funding is coming to an end. We need your support to recruit and train volunteers and to work with forest managers to improve conditions and help save the red squirrel in mid Wales.

We currently have very little information about how red squirrels survive in the forests of mid Wales. The more we can find out about how red squirrels use the forest habitat, the better we can inform habitat improvements and hopefully increase the red squirrel population.

Mike’s target of £5,000 will fund the purchase of vital equipment such as trail cameras for red squirrel detection and pit-tags to enable the project team to identify individual squirrels and develop a better understanding of red squirrel behaviour.

Iolo Williams, BBC presenter, has shown his support for this 'Nutty Skydive', and you can too. Donate at Michael’s JustGiving page.

Our native red squirrels could disappear within your lifetime – we need to act now.

Please donate if you can.