At the launch of the new Red Squirrel Survival Trust the Prince of Wales called for the endangered mammal to become a national mascot.

The Prince, who will act as patron to the trust, was speaking at its official launch at Levens Hall, near Kendal, in Cumbria.

The new national charity is dedicated to highlighting the problem of Britain?s dwindling red squirrel population, which is now severely at risk thanks to the growing number of grey squirrels.

?I cannot think of a better mascot for our country than the red squirrel,? said the Prince at the launch.

?Perhaps that might make people realise what it is that they are about to lose.?

The Prince also criticised ?man?s short-sightedness? for the squirrel?s plight: ?The terrifying reality is that, within a decade, if we cannot work together to bring in the necessary funding for the task that needs to be done, the red squirrel could be extinct right across the United Kingdom.?

The charity will co-ordinate all the local charities and groups battling to save the endangered native species.

The launch, which was sponsored by Cumbria Tourism and Natural Economy North West, brought together speakers who highlighted the broad range of initiatives taking place around the UK to protect the red squirrel.

Miles Barne, chairman of the Red Squirrel Survival Trust, said: ?The good news is that, with the right support, the red squirrel is fighting back. In the past 12 months, supporters have reported red squirrel sightings in parts of Cumbria, Northumberland, Anglesey and Tayside.?

Mr Barne added that though the battle to prevent the extinction of the red squirrel is far from won, recent successes do show what can be achieved with targeted investment, practical action and support from local communities.

?It is critical that red squirrels continue to be protected and that new colonies of reds are established. Our aim is to ensure that the red squirrel is still with us in the future.?

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