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Biodiversity group: No record of invasive squirrels in Asean

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WHILE concerned officials of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) have confirmed the threat of the Finlayson’s squirrel (Callosciurus finlaysonii) possibly now spreading in Luzon, the Asean Centre for the Biodiversity (ACB) said the global invasive alien species database shows no record of such problem, even in any of the member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).

The ACB monitors report of invasive alien species in Asean and other parts of the world, it being a major driver of biodiversity loss.

The proliferation of Finlayson’s squirrel, also called “Variable species,” was recorded in Metro Manila as early as the year 2000. It is now considered an invasive alien species in Metro Manila and is spreading fast with a confirmed breeding population in Batangas.

Basically rodents, squirrels are prolific breeders and are able to adapt even to harsh environments. Finlayson’s squirrel is a fruit-eating, tree-dwelling squirrel. There was a reported attack of this species at the Aguirre Farm in Batangas in November last year. The DENR said it also attacks birds’ nests, hence, posing a serious threat to the native bird population.

ACB Executive Director Theresa Mundita S. Lim told the BusinessMirror that initial research conducted by a staff of the ACB revealed there is no invasive squirrel problem reported or recorded in the “Global Invasive Species Dabatase.”

“This database recorded only two alien species of squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis), which were also recorded in the Internal Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List as introduced,” Lim, a former DENR-BMB Director, said. The other species, she said, is the Tamias sibiricus, introduced mostly in Europe and South Africa from the US and some countries in East Asia.

Citing the IUCN Red List, Lim said there are 94 species of squirrels found in the Asean; 13 of which are threatened with extinction.

The total number of threatened squirrels, which include “near threatened,” “vulnerable” and “endangered,” is 23.

“This is from global record. This means this issue may be a concern for Philippines,” she said. “But there is not enough official data to say that the same is being experienced in other Asean-member countries.”

Lim, a licensed veterinarian, was director of the DENR-BMB from 2003 to 2005 and from 2006 to 2018.

It was during her stint as DENR-BMB that the DENR took notice of Finlayson’s squirrel spreading in Metro Manila.

During her stint with the DENR-BMB, Lim said the agency conducted an inventory and validated the species if they were really non-native; thereby, finally identifying the then-mysterious squirrel species were seen hopping from tree to tree in gated villages in Makati and Alabang.

“That’s how we confirmed that they were ‘alien.’ If they were Philippine species, the handling will be different,” Lim said.

Even invasive alien species like squirrels are protected by environmental laws such as Republic Act 9147 (Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act), the National Integrated Protected Areas System (Nipas) Act and the Expanded Nipas Act. The latter provides protection to protected areas and national parks and the wildlife that thrives therein.

Lim said a better strategy is needed to be adopted that will involve more players to help in the control and eradication of the Finlayson’s squirrel before they go out of Metro Manila and wreak havoc in our Protected Areas.

Unfortunately, she said, because of other priority concerns of the DENR-BMB, the program to prevent the invasive squirrel was not sustained.

Read full article on BusinessMirror

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