Aliens Vs Natives

April 3, 2010 at 11:53 am | Posted in itchy fingers | 7 Comments
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Itchyfingers have heard of sightings and seen photos of this alien, but we have never seen it ourselves. So we were kind of surprised to see it during one of our walks.

Ok, the alien species we are talking about here are not the extra-terrestrial beings from outer space… :p Rather, they are the non-native, and often introduced species. One of the best examples of non-native and introduced species in Singapore is the House Crow (Corvus splendens). Originated from countries like Nepal, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Maldives, it was introduced into Singapore in the 1940s and its population has since grown and is now considered a pest. Non-native species are often introduced either intentionally to control the population of another species or they could be abandoned or escapee pets, or even released for good karma during certain religious festivals. Most of them either become a threat to the native species, fighting for food and space if they are of a more aggressive nature, or have little chance of survival as they cannot find suitable food for themselves.

So which alien species, or introduced species, as we would prefer to call them, did Itchyfingers see?

The beautiful Variable Squirrel, or Finlayson’s squirrel (Callosciurus
. Native to Burma, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and South Vietnam,
they are so named due to the variable colours  – with black, grey or dark brown
above and on the tail contrasting sharply with the cream coloured underside.
They may also be entirely cream from head to tail or uniformly red or black,
or grey-and-red

We saw a total of three very active individuals. The Variable Squirrels are
diurnal and omnivorous, probably introduced in the 1990s. They are about
the same size as our native Plantain Squirrels, except for the slightly longer

Commonly seen in our parks, gardens and forest, this is our native Plantain
(Callosciurus notatus). Diurnal, ominivorous and arboreal, it
can be often seen actively jumping and running from tree to tree

The Plantain Squirrel has a brownish-red belly with a black and white
stripe on each side of the body

Its diet consists of fruit pulp and seeds, flowers or leafy shoots and insects.
Itchyfingers have seen this squirrel biting off the pulp from a coconut on
two separate ocassions…strong teeth!

Next time you see a squirrel, dun be too fast to dismiss it as the more
common Plantain Squirrel. The adult and juvenile shown here are the much
smaller Slender Squirrels. The underside of this squirrel is grey with no

There is another tree-dweller that you might see if you are lucky, cos this guy seems to be more shy. Itchyfingers had seen it only a few times and each time it ran off so fast before we could take a decent photo of it…It may look like a squirrel at first glance, but look at the snout and you realised you are looking at something else…

The Common Treeshrew (Tupaia glis) has long and tapered muzzle that
looks like a rodent. They have jaws with pointed teeth, short limbs and a long
and bushy tail. It is arboreal but frequently hunts on the ground for insects
and lizards. This was one of the moments when it was looking for food
on the ground, giving us a full and clear view before it ran and disappeared
in the tall trees…

Singapore may be a small country, but we do have quite a number of wild lives in our small pockets of greenery for us to discover and appreciate. The problem of introduced species will always be there if we do not make an effort to ensure that there is no deliberate release of non-native species, and if they are already thriving out there, do we or do we not let nature take its own course?

Also see related post:
> Colours of Spring – Sentosa Flowers 2009



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  1. Where did you see the variable squirrels? I know they’ve been living in the xxxx area for some time, but I hope they haven’t spread further.

    Love your picture of the pair of slender squirrels!

    • Hello…

      Yes, found them at the xxx area…so they have not spread to other places…(Sorry, edited the name of the place…) :p

  2. Beautifully shots of variable squirrels. Well done. Yes, good to keep xxx area xxx. : )

    • Hi Joseph,

      Thanks. Yes, it’s just a habit of birdwatchers…to not reveal location openly, be it rare or introduced species…..haha… :p

  3. Woah u caught the treeshrew… I always wanted to know how it look like after I read about it (being mixed up with the squirrels usually). I really must go out with you more.

    • Buahaha…not so lucky all the time lah…..only saw the tree shrew less than 5 times…most of the time just a quick glance…

  4. The white belled squirrel, called “gratae” in Thai I don’t know if I have seen but the red belled one called “garaag” I use to see outside my house here on Samui playing around in the palmtrees.


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