Sunday, December 8, 2013

Squirrel Facts: The Cream-Colored Giant Squirrel

The cream-colored giant squirrel is a member of the genus Ratufa, or Oriental giant squirrel, which also includes the Indian giant squirrel. The cream-colored giant squirrel, also called the pale giant squirrel, lives in southeast Asia, in parts of Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand. It is the only species of giant squirrel on the island of Borneo. Unfortunately, it is believed extinct in Singapore and Vietnam, where it used to be common.

In Singapore it remains only on this postage stamp

Despite the name, the cream-colored giant squirrel has several species which vary widely in appearance, some of them being quite dark in color. The coloring on the back ranges from dark-brown to gray, while the belly may be dark yellow or creamy white. The ears are short and round.

This squirrel is quite large. The body length is about 13-14 inches, and the strikingly long tail is 14-17 inches. Total body weight can be up to almost 3 1/2 pounds. In spite of its large size, the cream-colored giant squirrel moves about easily in the upper branches of trees, coming to the ground only occasionally to cross gaps in the forest canopy.

Like most tree squirrels, the cream-colored giant squirrel is diurnal, or active during the day. It usually forages for food during the early morning and evening hours, and rests during the middle part of the day. Favored foods include seeds, leaves, and bark, supplemented with nuts, fruits, insects, and bird's eggs.

Nests are often made in cavities in trees. During the breeding season, the female will construct a large drey, or nest, high in the trees. The drey is made of twigs and is globular in shape, similar to the familiar nests built by North American gray squirrels, but much larger, about the size of an eagle's nest. She gives birth to and cares for her young in this nest.

The cream-colored giant squirrel has an unusual eating habit. Most squirrels will sit upright with their tails arched over their backs while feeding. This species, by contrast, likes to balance itself on a tree branch, with its body extended outward on one side of the branch, and its tail draped off the other side as a counterweight.

Although not considered endangered, the cream-colored giant squirrel is, as noted before, already extinct in parts of its former range. With deforestation and habitat loss continuing unchecked in much of southeast Asia, it is more important than ever that beautiful species like this, the resources that they need to survive, and the environments in which they live, are protected.

1 comment:

  1. This is a beautiful squirrel. I hope future generations will be able to see it in the trees.