As any animal in the food chain, the squirrel plays a vital role in recycling nutrients in an ecosystem. Although relatively common, further understanding of these animals will ensure their conservation.
I once thought that squirrels can only be found in temperate countries as they are common characters of American animation shows. When I got to Palawan in the early part of 1990s, I got excited when I first saw them thinking it’s a rare opportunity to get a glimpse of them. But later, I realized these animals, locally called “bising”, are common in many forested parts of the province.
Their noisy chattering in the early mornings made me get up and see those jerky movements as squirrels jump from one branch to another, finding their precious meal. My latest encounter was when I attended a high school reunion at Club Noah in Taytay, in the island of Apulit. I got to take a picture early in the day of a squirrel feeding unwittingly on the flower of a gumamela (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis) plant, I assumed it was sipping the nectar, as it jumps from one flower to another, an unnatural food for the squirrel.
Squirrel feeding on the gumamela flower
The Palawan Tree Squirrel (Callosciurus juvencus) can attain lengths of about 9 inches. Its ears are small and has a grayish brown, woolly fur and a whitish underbelly but the bushy tail is brownish red. It has small ears and the head resembles that of a rat.
Biology and Habitat
Squirrels generally feed on native acorns or nuts in the lowland forests, generally near inhabited regions as it also feeds on agricultural products like corn and camote tops. They scamper among tree branches but can often be seen living, constructing a nest in the axil of the leaves or feeding on coconut trees planted by farmers such that they are considered as pests. They can also be found in secondary growth forests, especially the marginal areas of slash-and-burn farming. Once disturbed, they scamper fast among the branches or on the ground and hide themselves in rotting logs or trunks, waiting for opportunities to leap back to their food. If they are able to escape humans, they may not be able to evade swooping hawks.
The tree squirrel is usually found in the northern regions of Palawan but can also be found in central as well as southern Palawan.
The Palawan tree squirrel is endemic and common in Palawan. They are usually hunted by farmers either as secondary source of food or to control the damage they cause to the coconut groves. Their natural habitat are increasingly reduced as more migrants settle in the hinterlands of Palawan.