#AceNewsReport – June.21: 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:
BELFAST: Red squirrels breeding in Carnfunnock Country Park after The Ballygally Biodiversity Group (BBG) has been working with Belfast Zoo, Ulster Wildlife and Mid and East Antrim Borough Council to re-establish the animals that we were brought to Ireland over 100yrs-ago
By Maria McCann
BBC News NI north east reporter
A number of kittens were born in recent weeks.
Part of the park has been sectioned off and cameras have been put up to monitor the squirrels
“The real proof that the thing is a success is that we now have breeding squirrels,” said Joe Dowdall, senior red squirrel officer for the BBG.
“You can bring them from the zoo but the fact they’re now established and, hopefully, self-sustainable is a great thing. Everyone involved has a feeling of satisfaction.
“This proves that with co-operation and goodwill between the various organisations and agencies coupled with hard work and dedication, a native species can be returned to its natural environment to enhance the biodiversity of the local area.”
Joe Dowdall says the project’s success proves the potential to reintroduce native species to their natural environment
Part of the country park has been sectioned off with feeding boxes and cameras in place to support and monitor the squirrels.
One of the Ballygally Biodiversity Group’s most active volunteers is Derna McCurdie.
The red squirrel population has been in decline since the introduction of the grey squirrel
“I come up here to feed the squirrels and help Joe. I started because I generally have a walk in Carnfunnock every day. It’s convenient for me to come and feed them.
“There is a sense of pride – we’re quite happy things are going the way they are.
Volunteer Derna McCurdie says feeding the squirrels was one of her few outings during lockdown
“It’s very beneficial for me. Apart from going to the shop once a week, during lockdown it’s the only outing I’ve had. And you get to know people walking. Sometimes it’s like going out and meeting friends.
“But the disappointing thing is that as a group we haven’t been able to meet and discuss the situation but hopefully that will end soon.”
#AceNewsDesk report ………Published: Jun.21: 2021:
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