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Wild Palm Squirrels

Discussion in 'Australia' started by Giant Panda, 7 Jul 2017.

  1. Giant Panda

    Giant Panda Well-Known Member

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    I recently spent some time around Perth Zoo searching unsuccessfully for palm squirrels. The introduced population has persisted for a century and peaked at 1,000 individuals. According to this article, however, trapping over the last three years has only left around ten. I feel better about missing them now!

    The rise and fall of Perth's palm squirrels
     
  2. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

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    oh that's kind of sad. I'm all for eradicating invasive introduced species (or introduced species before they become invasive - as in the case of the palm squirrels), but still.

    However, eradicating them from around the area of Perth where they were found isn't going to do much to protect, say, Brisbane, unless they bring in a nation-wide ban on keeping them as pets.
     
  3. Geoffrey

    Geoffrey Well-Known Member

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    Seems a pity not to offer them to the zoos to display (even if they banned breeding them and just let them live out their days - how long do squirrels live anyway?). Then again the city zoos presumably wouldn't want to bother with something so small anymore.
     
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  4. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

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    zoos don't want them. If they did, they would already be keeping them.
     
  5. Tim May

    Tim May Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    There are records of these palm squirrels living over five years in captivity.
     
  6. toothlessjaws

    toothlessjaws Well-Known Member

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    I assume palm squirrels are all but extinct in Australia now.

    Perth seems to have eradicated them.
    I know of no zoo that houses them.
    And its been a long time since I've read about them being held privately as pets....

    Safe assumption?
     
  7. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

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    I think you are probably right. I'm going to leave them on my "current" mammals list but with a qualifier that they are "probably" gone.

    The only zoo I still have them at is ZooDoo in Tasmania, but that is actually a hold-over from when the lists were first created because ZooDoo is one of those small non-ZAA zoos which no-one ever visits and has no real presence. Looking back, they got three squirrels in 2006. They were not sterilised and so would have been capable of producing a population at the zoo, but I think it is unlikely they still have any. Their website doesn't seem to have any comprehensive species lists.

    The last ZAA zoos housing them were Taronga and Tasmania Zoo. Taronga were breeding them and consistently had quite a number (as many as 17 in 2008) but then they decided to let them die out ("delete by attrition" as the term goes). By 2014 the only ZAA stock were two animals at Taronga and one at Tasmania Zoo, which were all gone by the following year.

    Their sale as pets is banned in most states. In NSW they could be sold as pets if de-sexed. I'm not sure of their status in Victoria - in a risk assessment for Queensland it is written (in relation to seven wild animals being trapped at Kew, Melbourne, in 1997) that at least 150 breeding pairs had been sold in the state.

    I think it's probable that there are still people keeping them, although I also think they would be illegal in all the states.
     
    Last edited: 29 Jan 2021
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  8. tetrapod

    tetrapod Well-Known Member

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    Seems a real shame that the only squirrel species in the country may have died out.
     
  9. MRJ

    MRJ Well-Known Member

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    I did not see them when I visited ZooDoo in 2018. By the way if they are not already ZAA members they are a long way down the track to joining.
     
  10. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

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    Oh, whoops, they are indeed a ZAA member! Must have been within the last couple of years. But that means they don't have Palm Squirrels or the species would be included in the census.
     
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  11. MRJ

    MRJ Well-Known Member

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    Yes the last 12 months
     
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  12. toothlessjaws

    toothlessjaws Well-Known Member

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    Due to the fact that the all introduced squirrel species have failed to thrive, you'd think that there would be a good argument to allow the importation of other species. Yet the fact that no zoo has imported any leads me to suspect their might be a "except squirrel species" caveat on rodent importations...?
     
  13. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

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    The fact that almost no zoo has ever had any interest in keeping the squirrel species which was readily available is probably more the reason why no others have been imported - other than the Prevost's, which were close enough to half a century ago. I guess Prairie Dogs too, although they wouldn't really count as squirrels in the public mind and started off here even earlier again.

    Historically Australian zoos haven't exactly been renowned for their good decisions in animal population management, but there are very few squirrels one could imagine them specifically importing when Palm Squirrels were already easily available at little cost (basically they'd need to be big or colourful, like Ratufa or the aforementioned Prevost's).

    I do doubt any squirrel would get accepted to be added to the import list though, simply because there are multiple examples from several species around the world causing impacts where introduced. Rather than being a "failed to thrive" example, the Palm Squirrel in Australia is one of those examples (albeit of a "probable" threat given their mostly-city-limits distribution). They established easily in two very separate locations (Perth and Sydney), and their failure to spread much further than they did appears to be an artifact of location rather than that they didn't thrive. The only reason both populations "failed" is because they were deliberately eradicated.
     
    Last edited: 30 Jan 2021
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  14. MRJ

    MRJ Well-Known Member

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    If there is such a caveat it would read "rodents except...". If an Australian zoo was interested in importing a species of squirrel they could go through the process. As I understand the process it is about quantifying and mitigating the disease and pest risks, not excluding taxa per se. However somebody would have to be interested in the first place.
     
  15. steveroberts

    steveroberts Well-Known Member

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