In a nut shell – cute illegal squirrels are not OK
Pleasant environs at Taronga Zoo will be the permanent home of an illegally-kept northern palm squirrel, member of a species with high potential to be a pest animal.
Seized by regulatory officers in a raid on a Manly property after a tip off from a member of the public, the squirrel has gained an eleventh hour reprieve from euthanasia.
When officers found the squirrel, the woman in charge of it was unable to present a licence under the Non-Indigenous Animals Act, nor demonstrate that the animal was exempt from licensing requirements for the species in accordance with the Act.
They are continuing to investigate and the owner could face a fine up to $11,000 for illegally keeping the animal.
Primary Industries Minister, Steve Whan, said northern palm squirrels can only be kept without a licence if they are numerically identified by an ear tattoo or a microchip and the owner must hold a certificate in which a veterinary practitioner certifies the animal has been sterilised.
"Veterinary investigations concluded that the seized animal did not meet the criteria," Mr Whan said.
It was transported to Taronga Zoo’s wildlife hospital, where vets determined its lack of disease made it suitable for inclusion in the zoo’s captive population of northern palm squirrels.
Mr Whan said while palm squirrels were known to be available for sale in a number of pet stores in the Sydney basin, the species have a high pest potential, hence the potential heavy penalties if rules are not followed.
“Palm Squirrels are a foreign species and have the potential to damage houses, market gardens, orchards and to attack birds' nests,” he said.
Mr Whan said northern palm squirrels had established wild free-living populations in a number of locations within Australia, including Perth and Sydney, but it was believed that the Sydney population had been eradicated.