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Siberian flying squirrel in its habitat

Finnish cities prevent the habitat loss of flying squirrels

Finnish cities prevent the habitat loss of flying squirrels

The Siberian flying squirrel is an endangered species whose biggest threat is forestry

Found only in Finland and Estonia in Europe, the Siberian flying squirrel has been classified as an endangered species for over a decade, with studies pointing to forestry as the biggest threat to its survival. To hinder and decelerate the rapid decline of the species’ population, the Finnish state-owned organisation Metsähallitus launched a 5-year project titled Flying Squirrel LIFE in 2018.

Taking this further, it brought together a total of 18 partners from Finland and Estonia, with 3 of these partners being the Finnish cities of Espoo, Kuopio and Jyväskylä.

Four main objectives

According to Metsähallitus, the four main goals of the EU-funded project are to prevent the species’ habitat loss, increase cooperation among actors to develop tools for land-use planning, improve flying squirrel data, and increase the exchange of know-how. 

As experts in land use, the aforementioned Finnish cities teamed up to publish the ‘Siberian Flying Squirrel in Land Use Planning – Guide for Good Practices’ in June 2021. There, the municipalities documented their experiences and good practices to help other local governments protect the endangered species. 

Flying Squirrel LIFE project
(Source: Metsähallitus on Youtube)

Monitoring movement and promoting safe habitats

The Flying Squirrel LIFE project also carried out a radio-tracking study from 2019 to 2022 to improve the quality and availability of flying squirrel data. On its municipal website, the City of Espoo explained that 10 flying squirrels were fitted with radio-tracking collars that permitted the monitoring of their movements. 

In this way, the project found that although the animals can live and breed in urban environments, they require more greenery and denser forest patches to move from one habitat to another with ease. In other words, they require natural forests instead of urban parks. Subsequently, the partners began planting more trees to facilitate their movement.

Taking a case in point, Espoo identified 3 main areas where better connectivity is needed, namely the Suvisilta overpass area, Latokaskenniitty and Länsiväylä highway. As of last year, and until the end of the project in 2023, the municipality is planting trees in these locations to help the Siberian flying squirrels leap safely from one place to another.

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