The 6th European Squirrel Workshop

Acqui Terme (Alessandria), Italy, 11th to 13th September 2001

Organised and hosted by Professor Italo Currado, Peter J. Mazzoglio and Sandro Bertolino (University of Turin)

Two hours south of Turin is the city of Acqui Terme, which is famous for its thermal spas and its castle that dates back to the 13th Century.

The workshop was opened by the Mayor of Acqui Terme and was filmed by a local TV Station. Approximately 40 people attended, with researchers from Spain, Portugal, the U.K., Belgium and Italy.

11th September 2001 The main topic for the talks presented on the first day was the population dynamics and effects of fragmentation on the European red squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris), and the behavioural ecology of the variable squirrel (Callosciurus finlaysonii), an introduced species from Asia. At the close of the day, delegates visited the Castle and its park containing a resident group of =14 Variable squirrels. These squirrels change colour as they age, from brown?headed individuals to white. The tip of the tail also whitens. Colour is believed to indicate the squirrels position with a dominance hierarchy. An enjoyable evening meal was had by all in one of the local restaurants.

12th September 2001. The second day of the workshop was spent at the Royal Castle of Racconigi, in Racconigi (Cuneo). The main topic of the day was the behaviour patterns and population dynamics of the European red squirrel in different habitats. After the morning session a trip was planned to visit either the Royal Castle or the Royal Park of Racconigi. The Royal Park has a resident population of grey squirrels (“Scoiattolo grigi”) which may number about 400 individuals at present. In the evening an excellent workshop dinner was held in a wine cellar in Acqui Terme. The dinner was prepared and cooked by catering students at the University.

13th September 2001 Representatives from the State Forestry Service were present at the last day of the Workshop’s proceedings in Acqui Terme. The morning talks centred on red squirrel conservation in the presence of grey squirrels and increasing the habitat suitability for reds. Prior to lunch Peter Mazzoglio’s presentation on the predicted numbers of grey squirrels in Genoa, Italy and the potential for spread into the hills around the city, opened up the main topic for the afternoon session on Alien species and the effects on the native red squirrel. Luc Wauters outlined the possible mechanisms of replacement of the red by the grey squirrels based on studies in Italy and the UK.

The afternoon session, entitled Management of the grey squirrel in U.K. and Italy and the conservati on of the red squirrel, was chaired by Mick Clout, Chair of the IUCN Invasive Species Specialist Group based at Auckland University, New Zealand. Mick talked about invasive species in New Zealand (including rats and the Brush tailed possum) and the effects on native flora and fauna. The tactics used to eradicate or contain these species was also presented. John Gurnell, Peter Lurz and Brenda Mayle gave presentations based mainly on red and grey squirrel studies in Britain, including the use of models as tools and possible ways of controlling grey squirrels. The grey squirrel situation in Italy was then introduced by Piero Genovesi along with plans for eradicating the population or managing red and grey squirrels should eradication proof intractable. Towards the end of the session, representatives from the National and Regional Park Services, the Regional Environmental Department and the Regional Wildlife Service presented talks. It was announced that the 7th European Workshop would be combined with the 3rd International Colloquium on the Ecology of Tree Squirrels to be held at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne in the UK in 2003. Delegates were reluctant to end the meeting after a very interesting and enjoyable workshop, and retired in groups to bars and restaurants to continue their discussions late into the evening.

Many thanks go to the organizers for hosting the Workshop and for their very kind hospitality.

Amanda Lloyd,
October 2001

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