September 11-19 Red Squirrel Week
This annual "Red Alert" campaign aims to prevent the extinction of one of Britain's best-loved native mammals
Outline script for assembly leaders
Question: what do we call a rope tied from the top of one tree to the top of another?
Answer: a squirrel bridge.
The point of a squirrel bridge is to save life. They are constructed across roads at places where squirrels are frequently killed by traffic. Food is then placed at strategic points to encourage squirrels to use these road bridges. They have proved very successful on the Isle of Wight and in Cumbria.
Traffic is just one threat to the red squirrel. There are now only about 160,000 of them in the UK, mainly in the conifer forests of northern England and Scotland. Even here they were hunted until 1927. Since then, much of their natural habitat in other parts of the country has been destroyed.
Red squirrels are often said to be threatened by the American grey squirrel, imported here 200 years ago and called "tree rats" by those who dislike them.
Grey squirrels out-number red ones by 66 to 1 and cause damage to trees, especially the bark of beech trees. But they don't attack red squirrels: they are simply hardier. They are also happy living on the ground and their diet is varied, including acorns, seeds and berries.
Reds thrive best in conifer forests because their favourite foods include hazel and pine nuts so the maintenance of conifer-only forests will help preserve the red squirrel.
With its famous tufty ears, the red squirrel is a much loved, playful and agile animal - and under threat because humans have destroyed its habitat, because we drive carelessly on roads through conifer forests and because we have introduced a fast-breeding competitor.
Red Squirrel Week is a reminder that we must put right the damage we have done to the environment.
A Red Squirrel Education pack (KS1 and 2) is available from Northumberland Wildlife Trust, St Nicholas Park, Garden House, Gosforth, Newcastle upon Tyne NE3 3XT (send a large SAE with pound;1.49 postage).
Other websites include: www.squirrelweb.co.uk and the Mammal Society: www.abdn.ac.ukmammal
Contrast the ways squirrels are presented in children's fiction with reality.