Sunda flying lemur (Galeopterus variegatus


The Sunda Flying Lemur (Galeopterus variegatus), also known as the Malayan Flying Lemur, is a species of colugo (see below for notes on the common name "Flying Lemur"). Until recently, it was thought to be one of only two species of Flying Lemur, the other being the Philippine Flying Lemur which is found only in the Philippines. The Sunda Flying Lemur is found throughout Southeast Asia in Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore.

The Sunda Flying Lemur is not a Lemur and does not fly. Instead, it glides as it leaps among trees. It is strictly arboreal, is active at night, and feeds on soft plant parts such as young leaves, shoots, flowers, and fruits. After a 60-day gestation period, a single offspring is carried on the mother's abdomen held by a large skin membrane. It is a forest-dependent species. The Sunda Flying Lemur inhabits both lowland and mountainous regions, living in primary and secondary forests, coconut plantations and rubber plantations. They are totally arboreal, seldom if ever coming to the ground, and if they did they are quite helpless. The move from tree to tree by gliding; once they arrive at a tree they can climb but only slowly. When feeding and moving in a tree they always hang upside down. They can glide for over 100 meters and are quite resistant to injury.

Head-body length of Sunda Flying Lemur is about 34 to 38 centimetres (13 to 15 in). Its tail length is around 24 to 25 centimetres (9.4 to 9.8 in) and weight is 0.9 to 1.3 kilograms (2.0 to 2.9 lb). The hair to the upper surface of the gliding membrane is greyish brown, resembling the bark of a tree. The underside is paler and not spotted. There seems to be 2 colour phases which some authors suggest sexual dimorphism, with the females tending to be grey whilst the males to be brighter in colour, with some shades of brown and even reddish. Grey ones seem to be more common, possibly indicating a higher radio of females. Females are also lager than males. The limbs are all the same length, with all 5 toes equipped with strong, sharp claws used for climbing. The toes are connected by webs extending as far as the base of the claws. The head is broad, with rounded and rather short ears, bright red or amber in colour. The muzzle is round and blunt. The eyes are large and hazel in colour; vision is somewhat stereoscopic, giving depth perception for a safe landing. The rims of the eye orbits are projected, making the eyes well protected.

The Sunda Flying Lemur is protected by national legislation. In addition to deforestation and loss of habitat, local subsistence hunting poses a serious threat to this animal. Competition with the plantain squirrel (Callosciurus notatus) represents another challenge for this species. More information is needed on population declines, but at present it is believed that the rate of the decline is probably not fast enough to trigger listing in any category other than Least Concern.

Classification and evolution

The Sunda Flying Lemur has two forms which are not morphologically distinct from one another, the large form occurring on the mainland of the Sunda Shelf area and the mainland of Southeast Asia while the dwarf form occurring in central Laos and some other adjacent Islands. The Sunda Flying Lemur from Laos specimen is smaller (about 20%) than the other known mainland population. Despite the large and dwarf form, there are four known subspecies of G. variegatus: G. v. variegatus (Java), G. v. temminckii (Sumatra), G. v. borneanus (Borneo), and G. v. peninsulae (Peninsular Malaysia and mainland of Southeast Asia) incorporating on the genetic species concept due to geographic isolation and genetic divergence. Recent molecular and morphological data provide the evidence that the mainland, Javan and Bornean Sunda flying lemur subspecies may be recognised as three separate species in the genus Galeopterus.

Behaviour and ecology

The Sunda Flying Lemur is a skilful climber but is helpless when on the ground. Its gliding membrane connects from the neck, extending along the limbs to the tips of the fingers, toes and nails. This kite-shaped is known as a patagium, which is expanded for gliding. The Sunda Flying Lemur can glide over a distance of 100 m with a loss of less than 10 m in elevation. The Sunda Flying Lemur can manoeuvre and navigate while gliding, but strong rain and wind can affect its ability to glide. Gliding usually occurs in open areas or high in the canopy, especially in dense tropical rainforest. The Sunda flying lemur needs a certain distance to glide and to land in order to avoid injury.

In general, the diet of the Sunda Flying Lemur consists mainly of leaves. It usually consume leaves with less potassium and nitrogen but with higher tannin. The Sunda Flying Lemur also feeds on buds,] shoots, coconut flowers, durian flowers, fruits, and sap[ from selected tree species. The Sunda Flying Lemur also feeds on insects in Sarawak, Malaysian Borneo. The selected food source all depends on the localities, habitat, vegetation types and the availability of food sources. The Sunda Flying Lemur mainly forages in tree canopies. It may forage on several different tree species in a single night, or on a single species. The Sunda flying lemur can also be seen licking tree bark of selected tree species to obtain water, nutrients, salts and minerals.


After a gestation period of approximately 60 days, Sunda  Flying Lemurs give birth to a single offspring. The mother carries her young in a skin membrane on her abdomen. They are weaned by the time they reach 6 months old. The young is born in a marsupial like, undeveloped state and its mother cares for the young the same as a marsupial would care for her young. the patagium can be folded into the pouch, which is soft and warm, and it is where the young is carried until quite mature.

Distributions and Habitats

The Sunda Flying Lemur is widely distributed throughout Southeast Asia, ranging from the Sunda Shelf mainland to other islands Northern Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia (Peninsular, Sabah and Sarawak), Singapore, Brunei, Indonesia (Kalimantan, Sumatera, Bali, Java), and many adjacent Islands. Conversely, the Philippine flying lemur (C. violins) is confined to the southern parts of the Philippines only. The Sunda flying lemur is adapted to many different vegetation types, including gardens, primary and secondary forest, rubber and coconut plantation, fruit orchards (dusun), mangrove swamps, lowlands and upland forests, tree plantations, lowland dipterocarp forests and mountainous area. However, not all of the mentioned habitats can sustain large colugo populations.