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Text and photos by Nick Baker, unless credited to others.
Copyright ゥ Ecology Asia 2024







Sunda or Malayan Colugo

Fig 1

Fig 2

Fig 3

Fig 4

Fig 5

Fig 6

Fig 7




Family : Cynocephalidae
Species : Galeopterus variegatus

Head-Body Length : 34-42 cm
Tail Length : 17-28 cm
Weight : 1.1-1.3 kg

The Sunda or Malayan Colugo is the most widespread of the genus Galeopterus; it occurs in parts of southern Myanmar and southern Thailand, localised areas of Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, and has an extensive range in Peninsular Malaysia, Singapore and Sumatra where suitable forest still exists.

A divergent lineage of Galeopterus occurs in Java (Janečka et al, 2008), which some consider as a separate species, and the island of Borneo supports the widely-recognised Bornean Colugo Galeopterus borneanus. Mason (2016) concluded that there may actually be 6 species of Galeopterus.

Colugos have large eyes with excellent night vision, small ears and a pointed snout. Some of its teeth are unusual, for example the lower incisors point outwards and are comb-like in structure.

Their diet includes leaves and young shoots. During the day colugos rest mainly on tree trunks, generally high up, but sometimes just three metres or so from the ground; they may also make use of tree holes. At dusk they become active, gliding from tree to tree to feed.

Females carry a single young (rarely twins) which clings underneath; when roosting, the young often poke their head out from beneath the female. In flight, the young are carried clinging to the flight membrane. Males are smaller than females.

The Sunda Colugo is generally mottled grey or greenish-grey but many individuals are reddish to yellowish-orange; males are predominantly reddish.

Colugos are rarely heard vocalising; Lim (2007) describes calls from sparring Sunda Colugo males as "a cracking or ripping sound, like the ripping of a thick piece of cardboard".

In Singapore this species has proven itself to be adaptable to fragmented forests in semi-urban settings; it makes use of tree plantings next to major roads and other linear plantings to navigate between fragments of habitat. It has been observed gliding across 6-lane highways, if the median divider supports mature trees.

Fig 1 : Adult with orange fur carrying juvenile. Seen at Pulau Pinang, Penang, Peninsular Malaysia.

Fig 2 : Greenish-grey female and young at Lower Peirce Forest, Singapore.

Fig 3 : Patterned, reddish example from Bukit Brown, Singapore; probably a male.

Fig 4 : Reddish adult, probably male, active at night, in secondary forest, Singapore.

Fig 5 : Juvenile peering from beneath its parents body at Upper Thomson, Singapore.

Fig 6 : Greyish female with red juvenile.

Fig 7 : Colugos must lift their tail over their body in order to defecate.

References :

Janečka, J. E., Helgen, K. M., Lim, N. T. L., Baba, M., Izawa, M., & Murphy, W. J. (2008). Evidence for multiple species of Sunda colugo. Current Biology, 18(21), R1001-R1002.

Lim, N. (2007). Colugo: the Flying Lemur of South-east Asia. Draco Publishing and Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research, National University of Singapore. 80 pp.

Mason, V. C. (2016). Reassessing Colugo Phylogeny, Taxonomy, and Biogeography by Genome Wide Comparisons and DNA Capture Hybridization from Museum Specimens (Doctoral dissertation).