A preliminary study on the status of invasive palm squirrels in Oman.
Palm squirrels of the genus Funambulus are reported as invasive in the Sultanate of Oman for the first time. These squirrels have been recorded in seven locations in northern Oman contributing to a total of 11 records. Seven records were of the Five-striped northern palm squirrel, Funambulus pennantii (Wroughton, 1905) and species identification was indeterminate for four records. Funambulus pennantii was supposed to be the only species in United Arab Emirates (UAE), but here evidence is shown for the presence of the Three-striped Indian palm squirrel, Funambuluspalmarum (Linnaeus, 1776) in Ras Al Khaimah. So, there is a possibility that this species may also occur in Oman. These palm squirrels are feeding on the fruits of Ziziphus spina-christi (L.) Desf. and the date palm, Phoenix dactylifera (L.) Mill. There is an indication that these species could become pests on date palms. Their abundance is low at present in Oman, but they are well established in the adjacent UAE from where sustained invasion is possible. They are also available through pet shops in Oman. The invasion of Oman by the palm squirrels is in its infancy and strategies should be formulated to eradicate/control them as a matter of priority.