The Wildlife Ark Trust has recently launched a campaign that will help save the red squirrel by attempting to prevent the spreading of the squirrelpox virus. The virus is carried by the grey squirrel which is immune to the disease but it is capable of passing it to the red squirrel.
Once infected the red squirrel will begin to get lesions on its body, especially over the face and eventually these will blind the animal. Once this has happened it will not be able to feed itself and it will die. Some squirrels die of secondary infections caught through the open lesions before they starve.
Robin Wilkin is Wildlife Ark Trust chairman and he has said, “We are a registered charity and as such we see it as a necessity that there is a vaccine developed to prevent the spread of this disease and save the red squirrels. We are working with the Moredun Research Institute to develop a vaccine that will help the animals fight the virus.
The cost of creating the vaccine is estimated to be over £400,000 and the Wildlife Ark Trust has already raised over £300,000 and is hoping they will be able to get the rest of the money soon so they can fund the final six months of the project. The trust are welcoming all donations and anything given in excess will go to their other conservation projects.
“The grey squirrel’s rapid rate of encroachment has increased by a factor of 20 when they are infected with the squirrelpox virus. It is estimated that the English red squirrel will be extinct within ten years,” added Mr Wilkin.
Chris Packham, the television wildlife presenter and a patron of the Trust said, “If you value our native wildlife, you should support the Red Squirrel Appeal. Normally concerned members of the public have to wait patiently for government to get its act together before any action is taken to protect our wildlife. On this occasion we are able immediately to influence the outcome of this major conservation effort to save our red squirrels”.
The development of a squirrelpox vaccine is supported by Defra, the European Squirrel Initiative, The Red Squirrel Survival Trust and many other conservation organisations.
If you would like to support the Red Squirrel Appeal you can donate by post by sending your cheque, made payable to the Wildlife Ark Trust, to the Red Squirrel Appeal, the Wildlife Ark Trust