Monday, 12 November 2012

Volunteering for British Red Squirrel

By Rosie Ball, BSc Conservation Biology student

Maybe the first wild red squirrel kit born in
Devon this century, on the Escot Estate.
For the past five months I have been volunteering for British Red Squirrel (BRS), who alongside Cornwall Red Squirrel Project (CRSP) are staging a national conference on red squirrel conservation in April next year. The last national conference was in 1997 held by the People's Trust for Endangered Species at the Zoological Society of London. Since then there have been successes and setback for the red squirrel in the UK.

Initially my role as a volunteer was not specified, only that I was to help create and organise a national conference. As I attended further committee meetings at Escot Estate (a country estate open to the public with extensive outdoor nature education facilities and a walk-through red squirrel enclosure), my role in organising this event developed further. All other committee members are volunteers, but all also hold full time jobs. Since my student commitments over the summer were minimal in comparison, I became the overall coordinator for the conference.

This role has been a steep learning curve (it continues) as I have had my first experience of advertising design, marketing strategies, liaising with speakers, delegates, trade stands, venues and sponsors, and linking communication and planning for the conference overall. My role has not been without the help and support of other committee members, but there is a high expectation to be innovative and use initiative, to do my best in ensuring the conference is a success.

Tickets for the conference are currently live on the CRSP website. The one day event has speakers from England and Europe speaking on squirrel pox vaccine developments, egg predation by grey squirrels, and updates from those leading red squirrel conservation in Italy, Ireland, Anglesey and Northern England.


  1. Hi there. I live in Toronto, and earlier this year, my wife, Jean, and I were in Ireland where we came upon the rarely seen Red Squirrel. They actually look somewhat like our Canadian Red Squirrels, but boy, do they have long ears! We were shocked to learn that the United Kingdom, and Ireland’s Red squirrels are contracting the pox virus from Grey Squirrels, and dying. The Grey Squirrels originally came from Canada. The Red squirrels often die within 3 to 4 days, so we feel very lucky to have seen two in Ireland. We have posted some of our pictures and video for anyone interested at:

    1. Thanks for the links, Bob. My mother lives in Northern Ireland, and we can watch red squirrels up close from her kitchen window. By coincidence, I was showing some of our students a map of red squirrel decline in Britain over the last 30 years. It's really depressing. But nice to know we have a new generation of biologists who are looking at ways to keep them.