ERA is currently assessing the status of the degu in Malta following recent reports in Malta.
In line with the recently adopted National Strategy for Preventing and Mitigating the Impact of Invasive Alien Species (IAS) in the Maltese Islands, a rapid response process has been set up to assess the best way to control the spread of this invasive alien species in Malta, with particular reference to Buskett, in collaboration with other entities.
The Degu, Octogon degu, also known as the Chilean Rat or Common Degu, is a rodent native to Chile (South America) and is related to the chinchilla and the guinea pigs. It was introduced in Malta as part of the pet trade and was either deliberately released into the wild or escaped from confinement.
Whilst it is noted that some experts indicate that it might not survive the summer dry and hot climate of Malta, ERA is considering the precautionary approach. This is also considering the presence of humid valleys and areas with perennial springs in the Maltese Islands. Moreover, ERA notes that some species which were claimed as ‘difficult to establish themselves in Malta’ have now became invasive alien species in a number of areas in Malta and Gozo, including the Levantine Frog (il-qorru; iż-żrinġ l-għarib), the Red-Eared Slider (il-fekruna tal-ilma ħelu) and different Freshwater Crayfish (iċ-ċkala tal-ilma ħelu). These species are either escapees from the pet trade or were deliberately released or discarded into the environment.
ERA shall also be addressing these issues through further awareness processes and discussions with stakeholders. This is particularly relevant in relation to the National Codes of Good Practice on Invasive Alien Species, which addresses such matter and also include DOs and DON’Ts in relation to pets. The Authority is also concluding the Action Plan addressing Escape from Confinement of Invasive Alien Species (IAS), which was also subject to earlier public consultation earlier this year and which will be adopted in the coming weeks.
The Authority also reminded that pets should never be deliberately released or abandoned into the environment, since many do not survive whilst others may not only thrive but become invasive, leading to considerable environmental and economic issues, with potential impacts to nature and biodiversity as well as agriculture and fisheries, amongst other sectors.
22 November 2020