A squirrel that hitched a ride from Limpopo to the Eastern Cape holiday town of Kenton-on-Sea under the bonnet of a car will be returned home as soon as its permit is ready.
The tree squirrel – which only grows to about 35cm and weighs about 200g – has since been moved to Port Elizabeth, where it has been stranded for the past three weeks.
The incident has prompted Sandula Conservation owner and environmentalist Mark Marshall to hold a fundraiser on the fire-stricken Lady Slipper mountain to raise money for the animal to get home.
The nighttime fundraiser is also to look for endangered chameleons which may have been affected by the recent fires.
Marshall was contacted about three weeks ago by a couple who had arrived at Kenton-on-Sea and found a squirrel under the bonnet.
“They had left the Kruger National Park and gone to Kenton-on-Sea via Golden Gate National Park when they discovered it.
“They called me after managing to catch it under their bonnet, snuggled in the engine compartment,” he said.
“They then drove through to Port Elizabeth and dropped it off with me.”
Marshall has been looking after the adult female squirrel ever since.
“She is very shy but also very naughty,” he said.
“This is a very wild squirrel, so much so that she is eating through her wooden box inside her cage.”
Commonly known as a tree squirrel in South Africa, the animal is known in other parts of Africa as a Smith’s bush squirrel or yellow-footed squirrel.
Marshall explained that the animal had to get back to its natural habitat, in the Limpopo area.
“These squirrels are not found in the Eastern Cape and because of this we cannot let her go.
“She needs to go back into her natural environment. By nature, these squirrels are also very social among each other so at the moment she is very shy and lonely,” he said.
However, to get the tiny animal back to its home might take a while as various transport permits have to be granted by Cape Nature Conservation.
Marshall has since planned a nighttime excursion for adults and children on the Lady Slipper mountainside next Friday.
The fundraiser has a dual purpose – to raise petrol money to drive the animal back to its home as well as to look for the endangered chameleons that were threatened by the recent fires that ravaged the mountain.