Page last updated at 12:18 GMT, Friday, 3 April 2009 13:18 UK

Prince launches squirrel charity

Prince Charles
The prince highlighted the problem of dwindling red squirrel numbers

The Prince of Wales has highlighted Britain's dwindling red squirrel population during a visit to Cumbria.

Speaking at the launch of a charity to protect the endangered native species, he criticised man's short-sightedness.

He was taking part in a conference organised by the Red Squirrel Survival Trust (RSST) in Kendal on Friday.

The trust was set up to help protect the red squirrel, which is now under threat from the growing number of grey squirrels introduced from America.

The prince warned the red squirrel could be extinct in the UK within 10 years.

He said: "I cannot think of a better mascot for our country than the red squirrel. Perhaps that might make people realise what it is that they are about to lose.

"The terrifying reality is that, within a decade, if we cannot work together to bring in the necessary funding for the task which needs to be done, the red squirrel could be totally extinct across the UK."

Drawing attention to the threat also facing the British honeybee, the prince added: "The plight of the red squirrel and the honeybee too is yet another example of man's short-sightedness in an increasingly throwaway society.

"The future of both species is a crucial test of just how serious we are about sustainability."

He met the charity's supporters and local dignitaries at Levens Hall, a grand Elizabethan home near Kendal which has not seen red squirrels in its grounds for around 15 years.

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The Prince then spent some of the afternoon highlighting rural issues



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