Picture released of four adorable baby red squirrels born at Tropical Butterfly House
The much-loved Tropical Butterfly House in North Anston has seen the arrival of four adorable baby red squirrels.
The population of red Squirrels in the UK is estimated to be around 140,000, and without conservation management, red squirrels could become extinct in England in approximately 10 years.
To preserve the population of red squirrels, they must be kept apart from grey squirrels as the two species cannot live together long term.
Red squirrels are native to the UK and have lived here for around 10,000 years, but they are now limited to certain areas of the UK and are retreating to wilder remote locations.
Grey squirrels were introduced to the UK from North America by the Victorians in the 1800s and are the main reason for the decline of the red squirrel due to them carrying Squirrelpox virus, which is fatal to Red squirrels once infected.
Speaking about the news, Tropical Butterfly House head keeper Steve Dickie, said: “We are over the moon that we have successfully produced this litter of four kits.
"Red squirrels generally produce two to three kits per litter, so four is amazing.
“The adult squirrels only arrived at the centre in April this year from other animal parks in the UK as part of the captive breeding programme, so it's great that they have settled and bred so quickly.
“Working with the red squirrel species monitor and other animal collections, we can ensure we maintain a genetically viable population as a safety net for any potential future releases into suitable habitats.
“These are the first kits to be born at the centre, so we are hoping to produce more kits in the coming years.”
Their diet mainly consists of vegetarian items, including seeds, hazelnuts, ripe acorns, fungus, bark, and sapwood.
They also occasionally take animal prey such as young birds and eggs.
Red squirrels do not hibernate, and in autumn, they’ll spend time collecting food for the winter when they will be less active but still be awake – this is important for breeding females so that they are in good condition for producing young in the spring.