A pair of red squirrels bred at the Pensthorpe nature reserve are leaving their home today as part of a project to develop a new colony in North Wales.
Fire and Flame, who were born earlier this year, are among 10 red squirrel kittens from Norfolk which are being taken to the Ogwen valley, near Bangor.
The move is the latest phase of a project which has seen dozens of red squirrels bred at the reserve near Fakenham re-settled across the country in recent years.
And three new adult males are being brought to the reserve from the National Wildlife Centre in Surrey as part of the project, in order to widen bloodlines.
Chrissie Kelley, head of species management for the Pensthorpe Conservation Trust, said: “This is huge for us. It’s the best possible outcome for a captive breeding programme.”
The cross-country move is part of the latest phase of a major project to increase red squirrel numbers, after an initial scheme focused on the island of Anglesey, which saw numbers there soar from 40 to 700.
Ms Kelley, who leads the East Anglian Red Squirrel Group that includes Pensthorpe and sites at Themelthorpe, near Reepham, and Weybourne, near Sheringham, said: “We have been an integral part of that project.
“Our colleagues know that we breed good squirrels and ours will be joined by breeding stock from other places around the country to ensure the widest possible genetic mix.”
Although red squirrels, which are a native species, have bred successfully at Pensthorpe for the past 20 years, they are still outnumbered by grey squirrels by around 20 to one nationally.