Nature is amazing. There are so many different species of animals and insects which are so unique that they take our breath away. One of these amazing creatures is the Malabar giant squirrel, also known as an Indian giant squirrel.
The colors of its fur make us believe that it came to the woods of India straight from a fairy tale, or some kid’s imagination. It is so stunning that it looks unreal.
When John Koprowski, a squirrel expert, first took a notice of it, he was overwhelmed by its size that he initially believed he stumbled upon a primate. But he was wrong.
These squirrels are two times larger than the eastern grey squirrels and their length can reach 36 inches.
“These are giants!” Koprowski, professor and associate director at the School of Natural Resources and the Environment at the University of Arizona, told The Dodo.
Some of these squirrels have fur with the colors of the rainbow, and even more, adding brown, black, and maroon to the palette. What the professor found unusual is that it’s not common for mammals to have colors like maroon and purple, but these animals seem to defy nature.
These vivid colors are not only a real feast for the eyes, but they help them survive in the wild.
“In the shaded understory of a dense forest, the patchy colors and dark hues are a great adaptation to avoiding detection,” Koprowski said. “But when you see these in the sunlight, they show their ‘true colors’ and beautiful pelage [fur]
Whereas most of these squirrels are herbivorous, some eat insects and bird eggs as well.
They have broadened hands with an expanded inner paw for gripping, and round ears all covered in fur.
Seeing one in its natural habit, the forests of south, central and east India, is not that usual, because they live deep in the forest. Having the ability to leap over 20-feet, they spend their days jumping from tree to tree, barely touching the ground.
“They are pretty shy,” Pizza Ka Yee Chow, squirrel expert and research fellow at Hokkaido University, told The Dodo. “One of my friends who lives in India shared with me that the best way to see these giant squirrels is to climb up on a tree, stay very quiet and wait for them to emerge from their [nest].”
While in the year of 1996, the Malabar giant squirrels were considered endangered species, their number have since risen and they are now species of “least concern.”
However, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t protect these amazingly-colored rodents.
“The real threat is the slow loss and degradation of forested habitats as humans move in and as climate change impacts higher elevation areas,” Koprowski said. “The good news is that they have a wide distribution and seem to tolerate human presence and even some modest level of low-density housing.”
Although they have been around for quite some time, it’s interesting how many people discovered them recently, when they gained on popularity after photos of their unusual appearance have been posted on Twitter.
“They’re part of a group of squirrels that is pretty ancient,” Koprowski said. “They’re a unique evolutionary group that’s been here a long time, which is a good thing.”
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Source: The Dodo