Vertebrate fauna of SE Asia


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Text and photos by Nick Baker, unless otherwise credited.
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Black Giant Squirrel

Fig 1

Fig 2

Fig 3

Fig 4

Fig 5


Family : Sciuridae
Species : Ratufa bicolor

Head-Body Length : Up to 40 cm
Tail Length : Up to 50 cm
Weight : Up to 1.6 kg ?

The beautiful Black Giant Squirrel is one of the largest squirrels in the world. It inhabits tall primary forest and generally remains high in the canopy, but at times may be found at lower levels when feeding. It is largely  solitary in habits and extremely shy, rarely coming to ground. It can confidently make huge leaps from branch to branch in the high canopy.

Its upperparts and tail are jet black, but the cheeks, chest, front of the forelimbs and underparts are  cream or orange. The tail is long and dorso-ventrally flattened.

Fruits, seeds and young leaves make up its diet, supplemented by occasional insects and sometimes birds eggs. It builds a large, spherical nest of leaves and twigs.

The species once ranged extensively from Nepal and Assam through Myanmar, Indochina and Thailand to Peninsular Malaysia, Sumatra, Java and Bali.  Its numbers have declined with the large-scale clearance of primary forest. It is absent from Singapore.

Fig 1 : Example from southern
Peninsular Malaysia.

Fig 2 : Orange-chested form from Langkawi, Peninsular Malaysia, showing typical feeding posture.

Fig 3 :
Photographed at Fraser's Hill, Pahang, Peninsular Malaysia.

Fig 4 : Pale-chested example
from southern Peninsular Malaysia.

Fig 5 : This nest is estimated to measure 70 cm across, and is situated high in the canopy of coastal forest on the island of Langkawi.

References : M1, M3