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Wild Squirrels Are Now Officially A Thing In Malta

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Have you seen squirrels roaming around San Anton Gardens? Maybe the Balzan gardens? Or maybe you’ve seen some chipmunks in Madliena? Because the furry mammals are here, according to Arnold Sciberras, the President of the Malta Rodent Society. 

“I was conducting an ecological survey when I heard a sharp whistling sound coming from a garden nearby San Anton Garden,” Arnold told Lovin Malta. “This was the first hint that an exotic species was present close by.”

“At first we thought it was a captive animal until reports came flooding in that squirrels were present in San Anton and several gardens close by,” he said. 

Red Squirell Photo Credit Arnold Sciberras

Since squirrels are not local wild species, the Malta Rodent Society went to investigate the sightings.

“To our surprise at least six different specimens were identified belonging to the same species, and their behaviour seemed to show they have been thriving on site for some time, most probably also breeding in the wild,” Arnold said. 

Swinhoe Squirell Photocredit Joe Fenech

Photo: Joe Fenech

The species was identified as the Swinhoe’s striped squirrel (Tamiops swinhoei), a native of central and western China, northern Myanmar, and northern Vietnam. 

Arnold said there were a total of 34 accounts claiming to have spotted one to five squirrels at a time. One local resident even managed to photograph them. Three squirrels were captured in that area, and others were spotted in Iklin. 

But this is not the first time a squirrel species was found thriving locally. 

“In August, 2017 four red squirrels (Sciurus vulgaris) specimens were seen in Qawra and none to our knowledge were caught. In 2015, 8 chipmunks (Tamias minimus) were trapped in Madliena. In 2014 we recorded several specimens of Indian Palm Squirrel (Funambulus palmarum) thriving at the Malta freeport and a number of the latter species were observed in 2010 in Mizieb,” said Arnold.

Arnold even found some Grey squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis) in the Salina area in 2011 while carrying out pest control works. 

Indian Palm Squirrel At Free Port Malta Photo Arnold Sciberras

As cute as squirrels and chipmunks are, Arnold is worried about the effect the alien species would have on local species.

“A closing note of caution would be that 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,” Arnold. “One cannot advise enough what repercussions a species like that may have on local biodiversity if it manages to establish itself in the wild.”

If you would like more information on squirrels and chipmunks in Malta kindly contact [email protected]

Have you ever seen a squirrel in Malta? Let us know in the comments and tag someone who’d love to!

READ NEXT: A New Cockroach Species Is Spreading Like Wildfire In Malta

Johnathan is interested in the weird, wonderful, and sometimes dark realities late capitalist society forces upon us all. He also likes food and music. Follow him at @supreofficialmt on Instagram, and send him news, food and music stories at [email protected]

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