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New additions to the squirrel family at Walton Zoo
10:00am Friday 16th August 2013 in News
RANGERS at Walton Hall Gardens Children’s Zoo have welcomed for new additions into the squirrel family.
Four squirrels were born to a mother who was bred at the zoo and this is her first time as a mum.
Zoo ranger Elizabeth Rowland said: “So far she is very protective of her kittens and tells off the rangers if they get too close.
“Their dad arrived at the zoo this year from Wildwood in Kent and it is also his first time as a parent.”
The young squirrels, known as kittens, are now five weeks old but do not leave the nest box before they are four weeks of age.
The kittens will remain at the zoo until they reach 13 weeks old, when they will be separated from their parents as the older squirrels will try to chase the younger squirrels away to start their adult lives.
Rangers will keep some of the squirrel and match-make them with other squirrels, while others will move to new homes, either at other captive breeding programmes or be released back into the wild.
The red squirrel breeding programme was set up in spring 2006 with the help of funding from WREN and the Waste-Recycling Group.
The number of squirrels which have been bred at Walton Hall now stands at 36.
The programme was established after the number of red squirrels in the UK started to decline rapidly.
Predators, viruses and changes to the landscape all pose threats to the native red squirrel but the introduction of the grey squirrel from North America in 1876 is the main reason behind the sharp decline.
There are estimated to be only 140,000 red squirrels left in Britain, with over 2.5 million grey squirrels.
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