Page last updated at 16:25 GMT, Tuesday, 28 April 2009 17:25 UK

Red squirrels ready for visitors

Baby red squirrel
The baby squirrels are Wildwood's first brood this year (photo by Les Willis)

A brood of red squirrels born at a wildlife park in Kent has started receiving visitors.

The breeding programme at Wildwood near Canterbury is part of a drive to stop red squirrels dying out. They have been extinct in Kent since the 1960s.

Once mature, the squirrels will be released into the wild on Anglesey where they will help prevent the species from becoming extinct.

The past decades have seen a drastic decline in red squirrel numbers.

'Urgent action'

Wildwood Trust's chief executive, Peter Smith, said: "Red squirrels are going to continue to decline towards extinction unless urgent action is taken."

But he said it was "not yet too late".

"If we can help restore areas of woodland to a native state and make a concerted effort, we might just be able to tip the balance back in the red squirrel's favour," he added.

Red squirrels are now extinct in southern England apart from a small number on the Isle of Wight and two islands in Poole Harbour.

The Wildlife Trust said the main cause of the decline was competition with the non-native American grey squirrel, which breeds better and out-competes its rival for food.

An estimated 160,000 red squirrels remain in Great Britain compared with 2.5m grey squirrels.

Wildwood has urged visitors to arrive promptly at 1000 BST as the squirrels like to take a long nap at lunchtime, particularly during sunny weather.

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The baby squirrels will be released into the wild in Anglesey



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SEE ALSO
Four red squirrels born at park
30 May 07 |  Kent
Birth of red squirrels at trust
10 Jul 04 |  Kent

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