Rodent Society warns of invasive squirrels at Malta Freeport

Rodent Society says squirrels without natural predators would have repercussions on local biodiversity

An Indian Palm Squirrel photographed under a container at the Malta Freeport (Photo Arnold Sciberras)
An Indian Palm Squirrel photographed under a container at the Malta Freeport (Photo Arnold Sciberras)

The president of the Malta Rodent Society has issued a warning over reports that Indian Palm Squirrels had been sighted at the Malta Freeport, warning of the repercussions that the species could have on Maltese biodiversity.

Arnold Sciberras said that animal rescue members from Nature Trust and the Rodent Society were supplied with live humane traps by Fort Pest Control to investigate the claimed sighting.

“To our surprise during the survey at least five different specimens were identified, and one photographed, belonging to the same species and their behaviour seemed to show that they have been thriving on site for some time,” Scibberas said.

The Indian Palm Squirrel, also known as the Three-Striped Palm Squirrel, is found naturally in India and Sri Lanka. In the late 19th century, this species was introduced into Western Australia, where it has since become a minor pest that is actively targeted for eradication due to its lack of natural predators.

“This is not the first time this species was found locally as claims of squirrels at Mizieb in June 2010 proved to be individuals of this species,” Scibberas said, who personally collected a male of the species and a female Grey Squirrl in 2011 as part of pest control works in the Salina area.

“Such species are imported locally for domestic keeping and unless the keeper is trained, equipped and responsible enough, one should not try to keep such menacing species. One cannot advise enough what repercussions a species may have on local biodiversity if it manages to establish itself in the wild,” Sciberras said.

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