Indian Giant Flying Squirrel (Petaurista philippensis)

Taxonomic Notes:

 Petaurista philippensis possibly represents a complex of several similar species. Further studies are needed to clarify the taxonomic status of populations currently allocated to this species. Listed as Least Concern in view of its wide distribution, tolerance of a degree of habitat modification, presumed large population, and because it is unlikely to be declining fast enough to qualify for listing in a more threatened category.

Description.

Very similar to the Red Giant Flying Squirrel (Petaurista petaurista)

HB;398-449; T; 485-570; HF;63-84

Like all other species of flying squirrels, it has a membrane of skin between its legs, which is used to glide between trees. It is characterised by its dark red colouring and large eyes. When compared to other species of squirrels, this species is large, being on average 422mm long. Entire body dark reddish except for black on nose, chin, eye-ring, behind the ears,

Range Description:

This widely distributed Asian species is found in South Asia, southern and Central China, and mainland Southeast Asia. In South Asia, it is seemingly patchily distributed in India and Sri Lanka. In China, it has been recorded from Hainan Island, Yunnan, Sichuan and Shaanxi (Smith and Xie 2008). It is present on the island of Taiwan. In Southeast Asia, it is distributed over much of the mainland, being only absent from the Malay Peninsula. In South Asia it has been recorded from 500 to 2,000 m asl; in Southeast Asia it is known up to 1,000 m asl (Duckworth 1998).
Countries: Native:
China; India; Lao People's Democratic Republic; Myanmar; Sri Lanka; Taiwan, Province of China; Thailand; Vietnam

Habitat and Ecology:

This is an arboreal and nocturnal species. In South Asia it occurs in dry deciduous forests and evergreen forests. In addition to natural forest, it has been recorded from plantations. It is found to occupy tree canopies and holes (Molur et al. 2005). On Hainan Island it has been found only in large patches of forest, where it was considered abundant (Smith and Xie 2008). On Taiwan they are most abundant in hardwood compared with coniferous forest (Smith and Xie 2008). Castanopsis cuspidata is eaten most often (24.95% of annual diet), followed by Ficus superba (14.67%) and Glochidion acuminatum (12.18%). P. philippensis fed mainly on young leaves (27.7% of annual diet) and mature leaves (24.0%). Leaf parts (including buds, petioles, young leaves, and mature leaves) constituted 74.0% of the annual diet. Monthly and annual diet variation was obvious, and this was related to availability of species-specific plant parts. P. philippensis fed on mature leaves and petioles in winter; buds, young leaves, and fruit in spring; and young leaves and fruit in summer and autumn. They preferred buds, young leaves, flowers, and fruit to mature leaves and petioles. However, mature leaves and petioles seemed to be relied on when more favourable food items were scarce. The Red Giant Flying Squirrel is believed to mate twice a year and the young are typically born in March or August in litters of two to three.

Population:

It is locally abundant in Southeast Asia where suitable habitat protection is in place (Duckworth et al. 1994; Duckworth 1998; Evans et al. 2000). It could be in local decline in a few areas in India where it is under heavy hunting pressure (Rajamani pers. comm.). It appears to be in decline in the Western Ghats and also in northeastern India (Molur et al. 2005).
Population Trend:  Decreasing

Major Threat(s):

 There are no major threats to this species overall. In Southeast Asia, the species seems to be very resilient to threats, but it could decline with increasing habitat loss; although there is no serious evidence of this except where forest is being completely replaced. In South Asia, habitat loss and degradation resulting from logging, shifting cultivation, expansion of human settlements and forest fires are considered to be threats for this species (Molur et al. 2005). It is hunted for local consumption and medicinal purposes in South Asia and China.

Conservation Actions:

 It occurs in numerous protected areas in Southeast Asia. In India it is present in Eturnagaram Wildlife Sanctuary in Andhra Pradesh; Valmiki Tiger Reserve, Kaimur Wildlife Sanctuary in Bihar; Bandipur National Park, Nagarhole National Park in Karnataka; Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary, Parambikulam WS, Peechi-Vazhani Wildlife Sanctuary, Periyar Tiger Reserve, Thathekad Bird Sanctuary in Kerala; Bori Wildlife Sanctuary, Kanha National Park in Madhya Pradesh; Phulwari Wildlife Sanctuary, Sitamata Wildlife Sanctuary in Rajasthan; Kalakkad-Mundunthurai Tiger Reserve in Tamil Nadu. In Sri Lanka it is known from Horton Plains National Park, Knuckles Forest Reserve in Central Province and Sinharaja Forest Reserve, Sabaragamuwa (Molur et al. 2005). The species is included in the Schedule II (Part II) of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. A taxonomic review of populations currently allocated to this species is needed.

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