Hairy-Footed Flying Squirrel (Belomys pearsonii)
The back and top of the head range in colour from speckled grey to speckled red- brown. The hairs are blackish with light or red brown tips. The hairs of the gliding membrane are very similar, but the black shows through much more. The tail is somewhat flattened below the fairly bushy top; it is plain, light reddish brown with a greyish base. The throat, breast and belly creamy white, sometimes wit a slight reddish tinge. The under parts of the gliding membrane is sparsely covered with red brown hairs, and the membrane as a white fringe. Tufts of long hair arise from the ears, and there is usually a light area behind the ear. The feet have long tactile hairs which even covers the claws to protect against the cold in the higher altitudes. The body has a length of about 22 cm; the tail is another 13 cm long. As it is closely related to the complex-toothed flying squirrel, some taxonomists add the species to the genus Trogopterus.
The Hairy-Footed Flying Squirrel (Belomys pearsonii) is a flying squirrel found in the mountains of the eastern Himalaya, Southeast Asia, and southern China till the island of Taiwan. It lives at altitudes between 1500 and 2400 m above sea level. This poorly known species appears to have a wide, but patchy distribution, in north-eastern South Asia, East Asia and Southeast Asia. In South Asia, it has been recorded from Nepal, India (Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim and West Bengal) and possibly Bhutan (Molur et al. 2005). In China, it has been recorded from Yunnan, Guizhou, Guangxi, Hainan and Guangdong (Smith and Xie 2008). It is present on the island of Taiwan (Smith and Xie 2008). In Southeast Asia, there are recorded from Myanmar, Thailand, Lao PDR, Vietnam and possibly Cambodia although there are no records from this country (Walmart pers. comm.). This species occurs at elevations of 800 to 2,400 m asl.
The population abundance of this species is poorly known, however, it is believed to be significantly declining, or at least very rare, in some areas.
Habitat and Ecology:
It is a mostly nocturnal and arboreal species. It occurs in temperate and subtropical dry deciduous forests. It has been found to occupy tree hollows of dense broadleaved forest patches and also in rock crevices (Molur et al. 2005). It appears to be limited to primary forest habitat. The generation time is thought to be relatively long, and might be five or six years, with a litter size of one or two young.
Major threats to this species over most of its range include general habitat loss (often through logging operations and the conversion of land to agricultural use) and significant levels of hunting for food. In South Asia, it is threatened by shifting (jhum) cultivation, forest fires, monoculture plantations and hunting for local consumption (Molur et al. 2005).
It is listed in the Schedule II of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. It is known from the following protected areas in South Asia - Pakhui Wildlife Sanctuary, Arunachal Pradesh and Nengpui Wildlife Sanctuary, Mizoram in India; Royal Chitwan National Park in Central Nepal. Further studies are needed into the distribution, abundance, ecology, and threats to this poorly-known species. Populations of this species should be monitored to record changes in abundance and distribution.