Tress for Life has won more than £25,000 in an international competition to help ensure the long-term survival of Scotland’s red squirrels.

Trees for Life’s Reds Return initiative secured almost 7,400 votes and widespread social media support – including from television presenter Chris Packham – in the 2018 European Outdoor Conservation Association vote held between 8-22 October.

The success will allow the volunteering conservation charity to step up its pioneering red squirrel reintroduction project. Reds from thriving populations in Inverness-shire and Moray will be reintroduced to four northwest Highland woodlands where they can spread, safe from threats from grey squirrels.

This will also help natural expansion of native woodlands, because red squirrels plant new trees by forgetting where they have buried their winter stores of nuts and seeds.

Steve Micklewright, Trees for Life’s Chief Executive said: “This is wonderful news for Scotland’s red squirrels and its wild places. We are so grateful to everyone who supported us and made this possible."

School activities, community events and citizen science opportunities will allow people to get involved with the project, which also aims to boost nature tourism and rural economies in the Highlands. The Gaelic language will be supported, including through new teaching materials about red squirrels.

The UK’s red squirrel populations have been decimated by reduction of forests to isolated fragments, and by competition and lethal disease from non-native greys. Only an estimated 138,000 reds survive, with some 120,000 in Scotland.