by Denna Giddons | 21st January 2022
At PAAW House we aren't just about pets, our love and respect extends to all creatures. Sadly, not everyone believes that humans and animals can coexist in an urban environment. When one such human tried to get a beloved local squirrel euthanised, I had to step in. I could never have guessed by starting a petition to save our neighbour Cyril back in 2016, how many hearts it would touch.
Introducing Cyril the Squirrel
I love where I live. It's a development in South East London called Royal Arsenal. Despite being in London it has all the charm of a suburban village. Its super friendly and steeped in community spirit. So, when a new furry resident came to join the neighbourhood he was welcomed with open arms - mostly!
Cyril earned his moniker back in 2016 when a few locals noticed a sociable Squirrel hanging around. The neighbourhood believed he was so friendly because at the time he didn't have any other fluffy tailed friends to play with. Cyril would come right up to humans, and in some cases even run up their legs.
The little guy became particularly close to a neighbour and friend, Anthony, who had an office on site at the time. Cyril would frequently visit the office for nuts and attention. Anthony decided to give Cyril a little back story, suggesting he arrived having accidentally stowed away in a delivery truck.
Unfortunately, Cyril's brazen nature wasn't welcomed by all residents, one in particular was very upset that this harmless little fella was burying his nuts in her plant pots. In fact, she was so upset she complained to the management company and demanded they brought in pest control.
How Cyril's brush with death went viral
I was spending time with my family on Father’s Day when I heard the news that a company had been instructed to capture and euthanise Cyril. We were all shocked and upset and agreed this needed to be stopped. That's when I came up with the idea to start a petition which I then shared to the local Facebook group.
To my surprise when I checked my phone later in the day the local news had written an article about the petition. Before long it was picked up by the national news. The story of a squirrel, beloved by his community had stolen the hearts of animal lovers nationwide.
As thousands of signatures came pouring in Cyril’s story was featured in several news outlets, including the Evening Standard, the Telegraph, ITV News and BBC Radio. Our little neighbourhood friend was now a celebrity!
With the petition gaining over 7000 supporters, cries for Cyril's safety were heard. Berkeley Homes, the development company behind Royal Arsenal stepped in and asked the management company not to proceed with pest control.
What happened next
A spokesperson for the management company said in a statement: “We have been listening to all those concerned about Cyril and want to assure the community that he will not be harmed. Given Cyril’s capabilities at causing a stir we do request that residents across the development leave him to his own devices and refrain from feeding him or encouraging him into their property, as this will encourage his behaviour when it is not always welcome”.
“We are seeking specialist advice on the best methods to discourage Cyril from causing damage to homes or offices. It is in Cyril’s best interests to be left alone to find his own habitat, where he can forage for food naturally, away from human intervention.”
And just like that, Cyril was saved! Our management company set about placing little nut feeders around the green areas on the development, encouraging Cyril to keep his nuts within the parks rather than people’s homes.
Today we have lots of squirrels roaming around the development, aptly all named Cyril, a lovely nod to the friendly nut lover who paved their way. It's so important to remember that whilst we live in built up areas, it's perfectly possible to live respectfully in harmony with wildlife and nature.
Happy Squirrel Appreciation Day Cyril's
I will be forever grateful to all who played their part in saving Cyril. Special gratitude goes to Berkeley Homes. They set out to build a community in South East London, their actions demonstrate their understanding of what that includes. Cyril and his friends are part of our community, they bring many people joy daily. Plus, it makes an excellent story; one that was recently told back to me by a neighbour who didn't realise I was the person who started the petition.
Cyril is our little local celebrity; his story will go down in history. Happy Squirrel Appreciation Day to him and all his namesakes.
Denna Giddons – PAAW House Team, Mum to Digby the Sausage Dog