Red Giant Flying Squirrel (Petaurista petaurista)

Distribution

The Red Giant Flying Squirrel (Petaurista petaurista) is a species of flying squirrel, which ranges from the eastern regions of Afghanistan, into northern India and Pakistan through to Java, and Taiwan, and also Sri Lanka. It can also be found in parts of Borneo and Thailand. This species was recorded in Peninsular Malaysia, included Penang, Tioman Island and also Singapore. This species also recorded from many localities throughout Sabah and Sarawak, up to 900m on Mount Kinabalu, excluding the range of P. p. nigrescens, which is known only from the forests around Sandakan Bay north of Kinabatangan River. Giant flying squirrels (Petuarista sp.) have highest diversity in term of species richness and population diversity in Southeast  It is often a locally common to abundant species.

Identification

Size.

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, feet and tail tip. The squirrel from the North part of Thailand are much different from the ones from the South, being those from the South are much smaller than those from the North of the country. The ones from the North are dark brown or dark bay instead of bright Rufus and have a blackish tail instead of a black tipped Rufus tail like those in the south of the country. Also those from the north have a frosted or hoary appearance because the hairs at the back and the top of the head are tipped with white, whilst the southern variety have uniform coloured upper parts.
 

Ecology and Habitat

In the wild, it feeds primarily on conifer cones, leaves and branches, and, when in season, fruits and nuts, and occasionally insects. It is able to glide for long distances. There have been reports of distances up to 75 metres (250 ft.) or greater; glide angles are generally 40-60 degrees from the horizontal, occasionally steeper for shorter glides. Their nest holes usually at least 10m above ground. The Red Giant Flying Squirrel is nocturnal and does not hibernate, but migrates to areas with more food. P. petaurista also able to explore secondary conifer plantations and use this habitat as feeding and resting areas. P. petaurista is most active between sunset and midnight and the home range of adult females in conifer plantation was estimated to be 3.2ha. 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. Adult females tended to be heavier than adult males (1,334 and 1,260 g, respectively, P < 0.01), but the sexes showed no differences in other body characteristics. Some males maintained reproductive capacity in all months except February, and most were sexually active in March-June and October-November. Most females were sexually active in May-July and November-January. About one-half of the adult females (49%) became pregnant during each breeding season, in winter (December-February) and summer (June-August). Pregnancy rates ranged from 50 to 57% in all months except February. Litter sizes ranged from one to two, with an average of 1.04 young/litter. The estimated birth weight for P. petaurista is 56 g. This species is a seasonal breeder with low reproductive rates, which may be a result of a low predation rate combined with their high degree of folivory.

Major Threat(s):

Habitat conversion due to logging, agriculture, dam construction, infrastructure development and urbanization is occurring throughout the range of the species. It has been harvested for the pet and fur trade in South Asia (Molur et al. 2005).

Conservation Actions:

This species is present in many protected areas (eg. Namdapha National Park, Arunachal Pradesh, India). This is considered to be a species complex for which taxonomic revision is needed. Surveys and monitoring are recommended for this species in South Asia (Molur et al. 2005).

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