To help raise awareness of British red squirrels on various digital platforms, the Red Squirrel Survival Trust is collaborating with Dani Connor Wild – a young British zoologist and wildlife photographer who has gained viral social media success with her red squirrel documentary films.

The trust aims to protect the few remaining – estimate is well below 287,000 – native red squirrels in the UK and reverse the catastrophic decline in numbers which may otherwise see their extinction in as little as a decade in England. As their ambassador, Dani will be telling the story of the British red squirrel through a series of short 10/15-minute YouTube videos, starting with some filming on location in Cumbria this summer.

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Known as Dani Connor Wild on social media, she is the only zoologist to date to document the lives of red squirrels from such an intimate vantage point. Her videos, filmed during a four-month stay in Sweden last year, garnered her a strong social media following.

A 15-second video of a baby squirrel eating sunflower seeds right next to her camera microphone shows not only what a baby red squirrel sounds like when eating, but also how red squirrels can learn to trust humans – and even enjoy interacting with them. This ‘I put my microphone in front of a seven-week-old baby squirrel’ video went viral on social media, receiving 16.6m views on Twitter, achieved 790.9K likes, 207.9K retweets, and 6K comments.

This type of exposure is vital for the RSST to help save the UK’s only native squirrel from extinction, said Mark Henderson of the RSST. “Dani will be an extraordinary asset to red squirrel conservation efforts within the UK, and we are so excited for this new collaboration with her.

"Increasingly, social media is being used to share important messages and causes now, particularly with younger generations, and already Dani has demonstrated her incredible grasp of both conservation and digital media. She will be a wonderful way for us to engage new and larger audiences in the plight of the iconic species in our own country.”

After graduating with a degree in zoology, Dani worked at the Natural History Museum in London before founding a digital startup company called Pocket Pals, where she showcased two animated films for World Wildlife Day and for World Pangolin Day. But it wasn’t until being stranded in Sweden at the height of Covid-19 lockdown, that she was able to make photography her full-time career.

During the past year, Dani focused on digital content and has gained 120,000 followers across her platforms, engaging people with the natural world through her photography and YouTube videos. She said: "Much of my work over the past year has focused on red squirrels – I was living in Sweden and had red squirrels on my doorstep. I fell completely in love with them!

"Returning to London, I missed them and I didn't realise how difficult it was to see them in the UK. I am extremely excited to collaborate with RSST and showcase the story of the red squirrel in the UK and focus on the amazing conservation efforts to save this charismatic species."

Alongside fundraising for pioneering research, RSST actively supports volunteer groups throughout the UK who, through their commitment to conservation efforts and population monitoring on the ground, lead in the day-to-day fight against red squirrel extinction.

These unique documentaries will be adapted for Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and TikTok to help appeal to both wider and younger audiences. The first of Dani’s documentary videos will be launched in time for Red Squirrel Awareness Week at the end of September.