Chosen as 'Picture of the Week'
Grizzled giant squirrels are an arboreal species and are endemic to South India and Sri Lanka. The loss of their primary habitat, riverine forests, is known to have multiple negative effects on their ecology. Studies have shown that populations of grizzled giant squirrels have fallen drastically in the past decade.
The grizzled giant squirrel (Ratufa macroura) is the smallest of all giant squirrels. It is found in the riparian forests of Southern India and Sri Lanka. Unlike their cousins, grizzled giant squirrels prefer riverine or riparian forests, which grow next to rivers. They are called ‘grizzled’ due to the white flecks of hair that cover their greyish-brown body. Like all giant squirrels, they are arboreal. They are crepuscular (active at dawn and dusk) and spend most of their time foraging in the canopy. They consume fruits, bark and seeds of many plant species, thus aiding in their dispersal and help improving native floral biodiversity. Like its larger cousin, the Malabar giant squirrels, grizzled giant squirrels also build a nest from leaves and twigs where they raise their pups.
Grizzled giant squirrels now occur as fragmented populations in Southern India. The Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary in Karnataka (where this image was taken) hosts one such population of giant squirrels. The major threat to them comes from habitat loss. It restricts their foraging capability due to a reduction in available food resources and also leads to fewer nests due to inaccessibility to newer sites and impedes their dispersal capabilities. The IUCN has classified this species as Near Threatened.