People, Environment

Persian Squirrel Staging a Comeback

Persian Squirrel Staging a ComebackPersian Squirrel Staging a Comeback

Following two years of vigorous attempts by environmentalists, the population of the critically endangered Persian squirrel is showing encouraging signs of recovery in the oak forests of Nahavand, Hamedan Province.

The precise number of squirrels in the forests is not yet known.

Although the furry animal’s global population is not under threat, it was on the verge of extinction in Iran as recently as two years ago.

Unsurprisingly, human activity was (and is) the greatest threat to the animal’s survival. In Iran, squirrels are in high demand as exotic pets.

They play a key role in the survival of oak forests, because they bury large amounts of oak seeds in the soil for winter, but their failure to retrieve most of the seeds means they sprout in spring to grow into oak trees.  

Aside from their rich ecology, oak forests act as barriers against dust storms, and Hamedan’s struggle with the phenomenon has been attributed to the shrinking of oak forests in the region.

“The community-driven initiative to increase the population of these woodland creatures took off two years ago and the results are amazing,” Karamali Gilaneh, head of the provincial office of the Department of Environment, was quoted as saying by Donyaye Safar.

He said volunteers set a number of squirrels free in the forest and closely monitored their activities. “They would go on patrols and report any illegal activity in the forest, such as hunting,” Gilaneh said.

The Persian squirrel, also known as Caucasian squirrel, is a tree squirrel found in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Greece (only on the island of Lesvos), Iran, Iraq, Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and Turkey.

Its natural habitat is temperate broadleaf and mixed forests. In Iran, they are found in the oak forestlands of Zagros. They live in trees, where they make their dreys.

Their diet includes nuts, seeds, tree shoots and buds. These small animals can naturally live six to ten years; as pets however their lifespan drops to less than a year.