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Boost for red squirrel as kittens born at Belfast Zoo

By Amanda Ferguson

Published 22/07/2014

Red squirrels only survive in a handful of locations in the UK
Red squirrels only survive in a handful of locations in the UK

Two red squirrel kittens have joined the ever-growing family at Belfast Zoo.

The zoo opened a red squirrel nook in August 2012 with the long-term aim of this becoming the first captive breeding centre for red squirrel in Northern Ireland.

The first kitten was born in 2013 and, in recent weeks, keepers have spotted two infants.

Belfast Zoo has been working closely on the red squirrel nook education and conservation project with the Northern Ireland Squirrel Forum (NISF).

In 2011, more than 90% of Tollymore Forest's red squirrel population was wiped out by the squirrel pox virus carried by the invasive grey squirrel and, in 2012, research suggested that the red squirrel was no longer present at Belvoir Park.

NISF chairman Declan Looney welcomed the news of the two new additions: "Belfast Zoo is recognised around the world for the conservation work they do with exotic and endangered animals," Mr Looney said.

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