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Last Updated: Thursday, 27 April 2006, 20:41 GMT 21:41 UK
Squirrel expertise exported to US
Red squirrel
The red squirrel population is on the verge of extinction
Experts on Tyneside are helping to safeguard the future of a rare breed of red squirrel in America.

Researchers from Newcastle University are working with their counterparts in Arizona to preserve the Mount Graham red squirrel.

They are creating a computer model which will pinpoint the biggest threats to the endangered creature.

It draws on expertise developed in working with the UK's red squirrels which are the verge of extinction.

With around 10,000 red squirrels, Kielder Forest in Northumberland hosts England's largest remaining population.

In Kielder, Newcastle University's Dr Peter Lurz and colleagues used the computer model to create a conservation strategy for the forest, assisting with planting and felling plans to help maintain a viable population.

'Numbers halved'

Their biggest threat is the introduced grey squirrel, which out-competes them for food and transfers a deadly virus.

The Mount Graham Red Squirrel, isolated for the last 10,000 years in a small area of coniferous forest on a mountain in the Arizona desert, also faces threats from an introduced species, as well as from predators and damage to its habitat.

Numbers have more than halved since 1999, dropping from 562 to a recent low of 214.

Dr Lurz said: "I think the important thing to remember is that there are multiple threats facing the Mount Graham Red Squirrel, and their survival depends on how these are best managed.

"The model will help identify areas where we need more research, will inform researchers' field work and will ultimately help the team to identify how future conservation efforts can best be focused."


SEE ALSO:
Grey squirrels face massive cull
22 Jan 06 |  Science/Nature
Virus a threat to red squirrels
02 Aug 05 |  England


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