Belfast Telegraph

Carnfunnock Park to become safe haven for red squirrel

A red squirrel caught on camera by Ballygally Biodiversity Group
A red squirrel caught on camera by Ballygally Biodiversity Group
A red squirrel sculpture at Carnfunnock Country Park
Carnfunnock Country Park

By Staff Reporter

Carnfunnock Country Park is to become a haven for red squirrels in a bid to boost numbers across Northern Ireland.

Despite being present in Ireland for more than 10,000 years, red squirrels have declined dramatically due to loss of habitat and diseases spread by the invasive grey squirrel.

But a local environmental group, alongside Mid and East Antrim Borough Council and Cairndhu Golf Club, is hoping to reintroduce the animals in an immersive woodland enclosure at Carnfunnock on the Antrim coast.

Ballygally Biodiversity Group has been working for four years to raise awareness of the threat and has been involved in a special breeding programme with Belfast Zoo so the squirrels can be released at the stunning location.

Joe Dowdall from the group hopes this project will bring a resurgence of reds back to this part of Co Antrim. He said: "We are delighted to release these animals here at Carnfunnock Country Park. People have fond memories of walking through this same woodland as kids and enjoying watching red squirrels, and hopefully now the future generations to come can also experience this as the population reinstates itself here. We have already seen success in Glenarm where the first pilot scheme was introduced and this is just another step forward in our mission to ensure the conservation of this beautiful, native species.

"Many people are familiar with the red squirrel's bright red coat and bushy tail but aren't aware of the severe threat from greys across Northern Ireland.

"We want to educate people that greys are pests and are spreading lethal viruses to the native reds, wiping them out. We hope by releasing these creatures into the wonderful woodland here, not only will the population grow but we can continue to raise awareness of the issues facing reds with walks, talks and trails."

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