Thousands of grey squirrels are set to be killed on the Lizard Peninsula – in order to be replaced by red ones.

The overwhelming majority of landowners have now signed up to the controversial plans, according to Cornwall Red Squirrel Trust that was set up to help re-introduce red squirrels to West Cornwall.

The area has been chosen as the centre of a national project to reintroduce the red squirrel, which was founded in 2009.

It is using the naturally isolated geography of West Cornwall to maximise the chances of the mammal becoming successfully re-established in the county – and has targeted West Penwith and the Lizard Peninsula as the two areas it hopes to clear completely of grey squirrels.

The aim is to remove nearly 4,000 grey squirrels from around 100,000 acres, through poisoning, trapping and shooting.

At the heart of the project on the Lizard is the 1,000-year-old Trelowarren estate, whose owner, Sir Ferrers Vyvyan, is backing the project.

His website states: “Trelowarren has some excellent red squirrel habitat and so does the rest of the Lizard. Sadly for both the greys and the reds, the grey squirrels carry a disease, attractively called squirrel pox, which kills red squirrels. Greys also live in much denser numbers and compete for the same food as the reds, so there is no way they can share the same habitat.”

The project now has a full time “squirrel ranger,” David Fineren, who according to the Cornwall Red Squirrel Trust spends his time in the field, educating land owners from those with a small garden to estates of several hundred acres and enrolling them in the scheme.

Since his appointment earlier this year more than 85 per cent of the Lizard and 50 per cent of West Penwith, in terms of land area, has been signed up to for owners to either remove their own grey squirrels or be helped by the project to do so.