North Norfolk-bred baby squirrels set for cross-country adventure in the hope of establishing new wild colony

Pensthorpe red squirrels prepare for their move west

Pensthorpe red squirrels prepare for their move west - Credit: Archant

Two red squirrel kittens which were born at Pensthorpe Natural Park, near Fakenham, earlier this year are setting out bright-eyed and bushy-tailed on an adventure to the Welsh valleys.

Fire and Flame are being resettled in Wales in the hopes of establishing a new wild colony.

The duo was bred by members of the East Anglian Red Squirrel Group (EARSG) at Pensthorpe, Weybourne and Themelthorpe and have been selected for a pioneering task force.

Ten north Norfolk-bred kittens in total will be transported in specially-made squirrel boxes to the Ogwen Valley, near Bangor.

Three others are destined for the breeding programme at the British Wildlife Centre in Surrey.

The project is aiming to combat the 100-year decline in the UK's red squirrel population.

As Britain's only native squirrel species, the red squirrels are a staple of the English landscape.

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EARSG co-ordinator Chrissie Kelley, Head of Species Management at Pensthorpe Conservation Trust, is working to ensure the move is as seamless as possible.

'This is huge for us. It's the best possible outcome for a captive breeding programme. We will also be welcoming three males from the British Wildlife Centre in Surrey to Pensthorpe so we can get as much variation into the blood lines as possible,' she said.

'Red squirrels only survive in a handful of locations in the UK,' said Ms Kelley. 'We are proud that Pensthorpe is one of those refuges. We have had pairs breeding successfully here since 1996.'