Graphic: National award to be named after pioneering Norfolk red squirrel conservationist

David Stapleford with his lifetime achievement award. Picture: Matthew Usher. David Stapleford with his lifetime achievement award. Picture: Matthew Usher.

Thursday, January 30, 2014
4:52 PM

A national award is to be named after a Norfolk conservationist in recognition of his 40 years of dedicated work for red squirrels.

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A red squirrel at Pensthorpe Nature Reserve. Picture by: Matthew Usher.A red squirrel at Pensthorpe Nature Reserve. Picture by: Matthew Usher.

David Stapleford pioneered captive breeding programmes and co-founded the East Anglian Red Squirrel Group.

Mr Stapleford, who lived in Hempton, near Fakenham, received the Red Squirrel Survival Trust’s (RSST) lifetime achievement award in 2012.

The former Fakenham Junior School head teacher died later that year following a lengthy illness, aged 78.

The RSST will be running the David Stapleford Award as part of its volunteer awards this year.

It will be presented to an individual who the judges believe has made a major contribution to the red squirrel cause over many years.

Janet Wickens, director of the RSST, said: “David was held in such high esteem in the red squirrel movement and we want this award to keep his memory alive.”

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Mr Stapleford developed a passion for red squirrels as a Battersea schoolboy in wartime Hampshire when he saw an “incredibly beautiful” dead squirrel. He did not see a living example until he visited Thetford Forest in 1963.

He started a red squirrel captive breeding and release programme at Pensthorpe Nature Reserve, near Fakenham, which he visited daily.

Deb Jordan, co-owner of Pensthorpe, said: “I remember when we came here in 2003, I was surprised to see a car in our car park early one freezing January morning.

“There were nuts and corn on the back seat and it was David’s. I went on to know this extraordinary, unassuming gentleman with a passion I have never seen in anyone before.

“Even when he was very ill he was up here regularly and he was so delighted to receive the lifetime achievement award.

“I cannot think of anything more fitting than to have an RSST award named after him.”

Chrissie Kelley, head of species management at Pensthorpe, worked with Mr Stapleford for many years.

She said: “He was a wonderful man and was always very keen to pass on his knowledge. We are making sure that the work he started will continue here.”

Nominations are now being sought and can come from a variety of fields, including research, politics, the media, practical action and financial support.

Details about the award and how to nominate candidates can be found at www.rsst.org.uk or by writing to RSST, Ouston Tower House, Ouston, Whitfield, Hexham NE47 8DG, or calling 01434 345757.

Do you know anyone working for a good cause? Email newsdesk@archant.co.uk

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