Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Efforts to save the Flying Squirrel


On 18th November this year, Minister of the Environment, Marko Pomerants, sent a regulation on amendment of borders and protection procedures of 13 existing Flying Squirrel protection sites to other ministries to be approved. 25 new protection sites will be established with the same regulation.

Siberian Flying Squirrel is one of the most endangered mammals in Estonia. This, mainly nocturnal mammal is found in Europe only from Estonia, Finland and Russia (and possibly may occur in Belarus). They are highly dependent on availability of old-growth natural forests where there are enough old aspen trees to provide suitable nesting holes for breeding and hiding.

See the video of Flying Squirrel>


The first Flying Squirrel protection sites were established in 2006. To our knowledge the Flying Squirrel is currently found only in some old growth forests of the Virumaa County, although it was previously found in other forested areas of Estonia. The most critical risk factors influencing preservation of the Flying Squirrel population, are isolation and destruction of critical habitats, but also the small number of animals in sub-populations. Other factors endangering the species are predation, felling of nesting trees, disturbance and climate change. According to scientists' the Flying Squirrel's populations may be considered stable if, out of a known 250 sites, at least 150 of them are inhabited during that year. Due mainly to intensive forest management during last decade, the Siberian Flying Squirrel population has undergone a huge decline. According to monitoring data from 2016 there are only 45 known inhabited sites now left!  The most pessimistic predictions suggest the Flying Squirrel will become extinct in Estonia within 5 years.

More bad news for the Flying Squirrel was disclosed early in the spring when our government announced the plan to start using timber in Virumaa county power stations to produce electric energy.  As the key areas for the Flying Squirrel are located in the same county, this plan would increase tree cutting pressure even more in suitable habitats and crossing corridors, than less valuable forests.

Therefore an environmental NGO “MTÜ Noored Rohelised” launched a petition to collect signatures for protection of Flying Squirrel habitats and Estonian forests. With this public campaign, over 2000 signatures were collected and passed to the Estonian Parliament.

As a positive result, Minister of the Environment approved in February a new species action plan for the Flying Squirrel and launched a regulation in May to establish new species protection areas for this mammal. According to this regulation, 25 new species protection sites are planned to be established and areas of 13 previous sites will be increased. The most important outcome of this regulation will consider the need to protect green corridors between suitable habitats to ensure that Flying Squirrels can spread. This is a very important protection action to save the Siberian Flying Squirrel in Estonia because otherwise small populations become isolated and can become inbred.

In July the representatives of the Ministry of the Environment and the Environmental Board met with land-owners, local municipalities and other stakeholders. During the hearings the process of establishing new species protection sites was introduced and possibilities of compensation for conservation restrictions were discussed.

A meeting of private forest landowners in Alutaguse.
Ecologist Uudo Timm - longtime Flying Squirrel reseacher
gives a talk about squirrels.

BBC Wildlife: Estonian ecologist Uudo Timm is telling us the story how he fell in love with Siberian flying squirrels. Read an article published in March 2016 issue >

In the beginning of November problems concerning valuation of land and the future of land acquisition were under discussion.  Then on 18th November, the Minister of the Environment, Marko Pomerants, sent a regulation on amendment of borders and protection procedures of 13 existing Flying Squirrel protection sites to other ministries to be approved. 25 new protection sites will be established with the same regulation. The area of the species protection sites to be authorized, will be 56,547 ha, that will be almost equally divided into special management zones and limited management zones. About 75% of the territory is under state ownership, among the private land-owners there are 68 private persons and 23 enterprises. During the preparation of regulation all known sites were checked and the substance of taking or keeping these areas under protection was analyzed, also meetings with each and every land-owner and other involved persons were conducted.

Estonian Nature Tours is pleased to have been involved in the process of rescuing a Flying Squirrel. WE BELIEVE IN BETTER FUTURE! Thinking about this stunning animal and Estonian forests we would like to share a video with you >

Henry Laks and Marten Kuningas - Flying Squirrel
Lyrics and music by Henry Laks

Composition by Marten Kuningas 

NB! Because Flying Squirrels are endangered you may only visit their territories to observe them with a local expert.  If you are keen to see (or photograph) this stunning animal then contact us to book a suitable period or a place on our Mammals and Birds in Spring 2018 tour >  

1 comment:

  1. This Blog is really nice. Thanks for it and keep updating.
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