Palm squirrel populations -a five-striped rodent native to the South Asia and Iran- are rapidly increasing in the United Arab Emirates, and it's completely nuts.
The imported species were first recorded in the wild in the Hamraniyeh area of Ras Al Khaimah in 2009.
They can now be found in Abu Dhabi city, Samha, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman and Al Dhaid, and even as far as Kalba, Fujairah and Dibba (both on the east coast, and on the Omani side) according to a recent study published in the latest issue of the local natural history journal, Tribulus.
Squirrels, squirrels everywhere
The species is extremely adaptable. It can live in forests, high-altitude mountainous terrain, scrublands, arable land or even urban areas.
But, it's not all fluff and nuts
According to Dr Jacky Judas, manager and scientific adviser for terrestrial biodiversity at the Emirates Wildlife Society – Worldwide Fund for Nature, and Peter Hellyer, a historian and author who has been studying UAE wildlife for more than 30 years, the rise in squirrel numbers could become problematic.
"Cute as they may be, they clearly have the potential to become pests, as they have done in Australia," said Dr Judas said.
"Given the apparent recent and fast spread of the species in the UAE, it is likely the population will continue to grow."
Dr Judas said the spread of a non-native species that starts to do damage can be extremely difficult and costly to remove. He is working to establish an open-access database of sightings of mammal species in the Emirates, both native and introduced, The National reported.
But will the UAE be able to control an introduced species? Or will the Emirates become the "Planet of the Squirrels?"
Just imagine the possibilities.
*cues dramatic music*
Coming to a tree near you
No kryptonite here
Will they adjust to local customs?
Or just add to Dubai's traffic problem?
Whatever the outcome, here's hoping these concerns amount to nuttin, because we'd hate to see these lovely animals go.