A conservation project aiming to reintroduce red squirrels in Carnfunnock County Park in County Antrim is showing real success.
It is thought to be the first time that the native squirrels have been breeding in the area for more than 30 years. Their population has been in decline after their invasive non-native grey cousins were brought to Ireland more than 100 years ago.
What Mid and East Antrim Borough Council did
Mid and East Antrim Borough Council has developed a partnership with the Ballygally Biodiversity Group (BBG), Cairndhu Golf Club, Ulster Wildlife and Belfast Zoo to re-establish breeding red squirrels in the Park. Five years after the start of this ambitious project there is tangible proof of success with the birth of a number of squirrel kittens.
Red squirrel wardens regularly check, feed and monitor the red squirrels, however the outreach is much wider with members of public reporting sightings, demonstrating the interest in this success story for everyone involved. Spring 2021 allowed a celebration of this hard work when the first wild born red squirrel kittens appeared at Carnfunnock. This was swiftly followed by several more litters, demonstrating the success of this project.
Impacts and Outcomes
- The Ballygally Biodiversity Group, Mid and East Antrim Borough Council and all the partners involved are passionate about the core aim of re-introducing and supporting the red squirrel population in the area, but also engaging with the wider public ensuring that everyone understands the importance of this project both for today and future generations. An adventure nature trail featuring the red squirrel has welcomed 1000s of visitors over the summer period.
- The work doesn’t stop there – the group are continually looking for opportunities to extend the geographical range of this important species alongside the Council, creating appropriate habitat and buffering and maintaining habitat in place.