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Doubt over forest threat

Fears that red squirrels may be threatened by a wind farm development close to Brechfa Forest have proved to be unfounded.

TV presenter and wildlife expert Iolo Williams highlighted the plight of the red squirrel in Carmarthenshire on his recent Natur Cymru programme.

Viewers were lucky enough to watch one of the elusive mammals being filmed feeding on the forest floor, which is a rare sight.

Red squirrels recently hit local headlines when campaigners hoping to halt the Blaengwen wind farm development close to Brechfa Forest claimed that, following Iolo’s programme, there was evidence that red squirrels were living in the woods.

The campaigners expressed fears that the location of wind turbines may have an adverse effect on red squirrels.

But it turns out that the squirrels were not filmed in Brechfa Forest but were filmed in forestry at Rhandirmyn, near Llandovery, with no confirmed sightings of Brechfa Forest red squirrels for some years.

A press officer for S4C said the confusion derived from a recent piece in a Welsh newspaper that quoted Iolo Williams.

He confirmed that the squirrels were not filmed in Brechfa Forest.

However, several weeks ago Iolo Williams stated that the squirrels were filmed in Brechfa. He said: “Red squirrels were filmed in Brechfa recently for a series on S4C.

“There are maybe four small areas in Wales where red squirrels are holding on in the wild – and I mean just holding on. They are Anglesey, two areas in North Wales and here at Brechfa.”

A statement from the council added that Iolo’s programme found out about the squirrels because of the work being undertaken by the Mid Wales Red Squirrel Project.

Over the past five years the group has been researching the mammals in coniferous forests in Carmarthenshire, Powys and Ceredigion. Survey work has indicated that Mid Wales may have the largest and most genetically diverse population in Wales.

Red squirrels, once widespread throughout Wales, have seriously declined in numbers.

Today, the spread of grey squirrels, which out-compete reds for food and spread a deadly virus, means remaining reds are only just hanging on in the non-native conifer forests, while the greys are spreading further into the conifer forests.

Evening Post

23 April 2008