Flying Squirrels of Arunachal Pradesh

Dr. Ranjan Kumar Das

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Flying Squirrels of Northeast India are declining due to habitat loss from large-scale tree felling, plus threats like excessive traditional hunting.

There are about 46 species of Flying Squirrels found in the world and they are grouped under one tribe, i.e. the Petauristini tribe. Asia has the distinction of being home to most of the species. Flying Squirrels don’t actually fly, but glide from one tree to the other. They basically use their patagium, a membrane stretching from the wrist (forelegs) to the ankle (hind legs), to glide. Once airborne, these squirrels use their arms, legs, and tail to effectively navigate and move from one tree top to another.

In India, Flying Squirrels are known to have great variation in their size and coloration, both seasonally and even between sexes. But, very little is known about these beautiful mammals and most of them are listed as Data Deficient by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). This is basically because of their nocturnal habits and because they are dwellers of dense woodlands in remote places. In India we have around 17 species of flying squirrels of which 14 are in the Northeast. They are losing their habitats due to large-scale tree felling, and their numbers are decreasing very fast. Traditional hunting too is a serious threat to these squirrels. We know very little about their life cycle, breeding behavior, and such. Conservation and scientific study of flying squirrels in NE-India is most urgent.

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About the author

Dr. Ranjan Kumar Das

Associate Professor, Department of Geography, Tinsukia College, Tinsukia, Assam