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Prince Charles launches Cumbria red squirrel campaign

media captionRed squirrels are still found in good numbers in northern England, but greys are encroaching

The Prince of Wales has launched a conservation project to try to save the UK's dwindling number of native red squirrels.

During a visit to Hutton-in-the-Forest in Cumbria he lent his support to the five-year scheme called Red Squirrels Northern England (RSNE).

He met some of the 1,500 volunteers involved in red squirrel conservation projects across the north of England.

The prince is patron of the Red Squirrel Survival Trust (RSST).

According to the Forestry Commission there are an estimated 140,000 red squirrels and 2.5m greys left in Great Britain.

The red population is under threat from its grey cousin which carries a fatal pox virus.

The RSNE project will bring together existing and new conservation projects which have £3.1m to spend over the next five years.

Prince Charles said: "It is really only by working together that we will have a chance of preserving this most iconic of species.

"Reds are now returning to the woodland and the gardens where they were once terrorised by greys in certain areas and this is something to celebrate.

"My dream is that red squirrels might thrive in the UK and it is perhaps here in the north of England that perhaps we can dare to think it might be a reality thanks to people like yourselves."

He added: "My great ambition is to have one in the house... sitting on the breakfast table and on my shoulder!"

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