Belfast Zoo breeding programme

Belfast Zoo first became home to red squirrels in 2012, when Taisie, Shesk and Oisin arrived at ‘red squirrel nook’, from the Glens of Antrim, with the help of the Glens Red Squirrel Group.

The squirrel nook

The aim of red squirrel nook was predominantly educational, highlighting the plight of the red squirrel in Northern Ireland.  However, from the beginning, the hope was that the squirrels would be sufficiently content in the nook to breed.

Belfast Zoo babies

The first kitten was born in 2013 and subsequently Belfast Zoo has been celebrating the arrival lots more squirrel kittens.  The young squirrels have been returned to the Glens of Antrim and South Down.  With the 2017 youngsters being released into the southern Mournes during June 2018.

Chairperson of the NISF, Declan Looney, is delighted with the outcome of the project, “The aim of the Northern Ireland Squirrel Forum is to bring together those dedicated to protecting the red squirrel in Northern Ireland.  It is extremely encouraging when this collaborative effort results in a project with such demonstrable results, as Belfast Zoo’s red squirrel nook.

Belfast Zoo babies The breeding project at Belfast Zoo aims to preserve an iconic native species, which is facing increased threat in Northern Ireland, through the provision of a safety net population with the ability to populate existing and identified new areas of habitat.  The release of red squirrels is not only a great success for those of us who worked closely on this project but it is a success for everyone in Northern Ireland who will hopefully be able to celebrate this species for many more generations”.

Belfast Zoo’s ‘red squirrel nook’ is still home to red squirrels and some new kittens.  When these kittens are old enough, a suitable area will be selected and further releases will be performed.

Belfast Zoo signage Belfast Zoo’s red squirrel nook was funded by zoo visitors in 2010. Belfast Zoo would like to thank everyone for their support, without which, this project would not have been possible.

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