Germany's Zoo am Meer Bremerhaven announced the arrival of its first Siberian Red Squirrel offspring. The five healthy youngsters were born seven weeks ago and are now old enough to begin exploring their habitat. This Siberian subspecies (Sciurus vulgaris exalbidus) is rarely kept in European zoos, so getting a chance to see these rambunctious and playful little red babies is a treat for zoo visitors.
Red Squirrels of all kinds are found across most of Europe, into northern Asia and Siberia. In the last 60 years, there has been a dramatic decline of the native Red Squirrel due to loss of habitat, disease, and, in particular, competition from its larger cousin, the American Grey Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis). The Grey Squirrel debarks mature native trees, which results in the trees dying. They can also eat and digest the fruit and flowering parts of plants while they are still green in the spring, whereas the Red Squirrel cannot, thus going hungry in the late summer and autumn with no stock left on the trees or plants to ripen. Also, the Grey Squirrel carries the Squirrel Pox Virus without being affected by it, but the virus can be passed onto Red Squirrels with devastating results. So these zoo-born babies are very important to preserving the species.