Red squirrels take step to survival

Two red squirrels enjoyed settling into their new home during the weekend as a north Norfolk nature reserve stepped up its role in a programme aiming to save the animals from extinction.

Two red squirrels enjoyed settling into their new home over the weekend as Pensthorpe Nature Reserve stepped up its role in a programme aiming to save the animals from extinction.

Shaka and Mfzee, both one year old, were the first pair of squirrels to move into part of the newly-extended red squirrel enclosure at Pensthorpe Nature Reserve.

Judging by how they raced around exploring the enclosure, their new abode was a big hit with the pair who are classed as red squirrels despite having black fur.

Their new home is one of two enclosures added to the reserve's existing squirrel enclosure, with all three now also connected with overhead runs to give the squirrels plenty of space to run around.

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Deb Jordan, who owns Pensthorpe with her husband Bill, said: 'Our commitment to the red squirrel breeding programme goes back some seven years and during that time we have worked closely with the East Anglian Red Squirrel Trust to protect these wonderful animals.

'The new enclosures will enable Pensthorpe to take the programme to the next stage and, in the longer term help increase red squirrel numbers in the UK.'

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As well as the reserve's new arrivals, Pensthorpe is also home to another pair of red squirrels, Tweedledum and Tortoishelle, both two. On March 1 the pair had four baby squirrels, known as kittens.

The four kittens, one male and three female, will soon be moved into the other new enclosure, and eventually it is hoped they will be released into the wild in Anglesey, in North Wales, which is one of the few places in the UK where red squirrels still live in the wild.

The kittens have not yet been named and Pensthorpe wants The Times' readers to email them with suggestions.

The names must all begin with the letter V because this tells experts that the squirrels were born in 2009.

Suggestions should be emailed to or by the end of May.

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