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







Red Giant Flying Squirrel

Fig 1

Fig 2

Fig 3

Fig 4

Fig 5

Fig 6

Family : Sciuridae
Species : Petaurista petaurista

Head-Body Length : Up to 52 cm
Tail Length : Up to 60 cm
Weight : Up to 2.9 kg

The Red Giant Flying Squirrel (Petaurista petaurista) is amongst the largest of flying squirrels in Southeast Asia. It is predominantly nocturnal and inhabits primary or tall secondary forest, though it will also make use of adjacent heavily disturbed forest where tree cover is less dense (this species is able to glide great distances between trees, reportedly up to 100 metres or so).

The species nests in tree holes, and its diet includes fresh, young leaves and various forest fruits and seeds.

Illustrated here (Figure 1) is the typical form from Peninsular Malaysia (P. p. melanotus), which is dark brown above, orange below, with a black snout, black feet and a black tip to its tail.  Other subspecies, for example in parts of Thailand, exhibit pale speckling on the head, and have whitish underparts.

The body of this squirrel is robust, and its tail long, furry and round in cross-section. At rest the tail typically hangs freely down, but when active or disturbed it may be curved over its back.

The Red Giant Flying Squirrel ranges at least from northern parts of India and Nepal, through parts of southern China, Myanmar and Thailand to Peninsular Malaysia, Sumatra, Java and Borneo. In Singapore it may be locally extinct, having not been reported since 1986.

Fig 1 : Adult, with rich orange-brown fur from Sungai Menyala, Negeri Sembilan, Peninsular Malaysia.

Fig 2 : Adult female and juvenile in typical resting posture, high in the forest canopy, on the island of Langkawi, Kedah, Peninsular Malaysia.

Fig 3 : An inquisitive juvenile looks out from its treehole at dusk.

Fig 4 : An adult female readying herself to leave her treehole at nightfall.

Figs 5 and 6 : An adult female leaps from a dead tree at dusk.

Fig 7 : Example from the Mahua Waterfall area, Crocker Range National Park, Sabah, Borneo. This squirrel 'crash-landed' onto the forest floor near the photographer (other images appear to show it might be blind in its left eye which may be the cause of its miscalculation). It then hissed loudly at the photographer, before climbing up a nearby tree trunk.  Photo thanks to Khew Sin Khoon.

References : M2, M3, M5


Fig 7
ゥ  Khew Sin Khoon