Staff and students from Northumberland College’s Kirkley Hall Zoological Gardens are proud recipients of two Blue Cross Animals in Education Awards and have just taken in a six week old endangered red squirrel for hand-rearing.
Blue Cross, a nationwide organisation that has been dedicated to caring for injured animals since 1906 recognised the college zoo with the Best Mammal Welfare award for their Primates and the Best Bird Welfare award for their Wetland Aviary.
These awards coincide with the arrival of the red squirrel kitten that was found on the ground by a local dog-walker in a Bedlington park who contacted Red Squirrel Northern England (RSNE), who in turn brought the kit to the zoo.
Staff and students from the Animal Management centre at the zoo have been working with RSNE to save the endangered species for a number of years after a monitoring programme was established when special cameras discovered the rare reds in nearby woodland.
Steven Sykes, of Kirkley Hall Zoological Gardens, said: "We have named our new arrival Kitty and our aim is to release her back into the wild here at Kirkley.
"She would normally still be with her siblings so we hope we can soft release her, a process whereby we supplement feed and provide shelter whilst Kitty establishes herself in the woodland around the centre. If this release goes well we will take on other reds that need rearing in the future."
The zoo will soon launch an education trail all about the red squirrels that it is hoped will encourage the public to report any sightings via the RSNE website at www.rsne.org.uk. This trail, that also includes a new wildlife hide, has been built with the support of the Friends of Kirkley Hall along with extensive fund-raising by staff and students at the zoo.