Funding has been secured to help develop a vaccine for squirrel pox virus
The Scottish Government is providing a total of £40,000 over the next two years to help the Moredun Research Institute continue to develop a vaccine to protect red squirrels from squirrel pox virus until an application by the Moredun to secure funding through the EU Life + programme has been completed.
In order to help fill the funding gap, counterparts in England, Northern Ireland and Wales and have secured additional commitments that, when taken together with the sum committed from the Scottish Government, amount to 50% of the budget required to continue trialling the vaccine over the next two years.
The Red Squirrel Survival Trust has offered to fund the remaining balance in order to ensure the work is undertaken.
The squirrel pox virus is responsible for the disease known as squirrel pox which presents in red squirrels with a mange, scab or myxomatosis-like symptoms, leading to rapid loss of body condition and subsequently death.
The UK population of red squirrels has been in decline since grey squirrels were introduced from North America. As well as displacing red squirrels from their habitat, grey squirrels also carry the squirrel pox virus, which they have spread to the reds, causing the dramatic drop in numbers, a severe problem in the UK.
This research will enable development work on a squirrel pox virus vaccine to make further progress and it is to be hoped, will lead to the solution to one of the most serious threats to the long term survival of the much loved, red squirrel throughout the British Isles.