We’re all used to seeing squirrels; they’re everywhere we go. But I bet you’ve never seen a giant multicolored squirrel.
‘A multicolored squirrel?’ I hear you say. ‘That’s impossible.’ Well, actually it’s not impossible. They are real and they live in the trees of India.
When John Koprowski visited India in 2006, he was amazed to come across the magnificent Malabar squirrel.
The Malabar giant squirrel is so big that John Koprowski thought they might be primates when he first spotted them.
The Malabar squirrel is twice the size of a regular squirrel you find in North America. Their bodies can span 36 inches from head to tail. (I bet you wouldn’t want to come across one of these in your local park…)
But it’s not only the size of the Malabar squirrel that is impressive. The most noticeable thing about the species is the color of their fur. Their beautiful fur can be black, brown, orange, maroon and purple. I guess Mother Nature couldn’t pick just one color when she created these fascinating animals.
As it turns out, their spectacular fur isn’t just for show – it actually helps to keep them alive in the wild.
In the shaded understory of a dense forest, the patchy colors and dark hues are a great adaptation to avoiding detection. But when you see these in the sunlight, they show their ‘true colors’ and beautiful pelage [fur]. – John Koprowski
The Malabar squirrel enjoys eating fruit, flowers, nuts and tree bark. Although some subspecies also eat insects and bird eggs.
The impressive squirrels live mainly in the trees, hopping from branch to branch, searching for food. They rarely ever touch the ground and they can leap over 20 feet!
Despite their energetic nature, they are pretty shy creatures, so it’s unlikely you would be lucky enough to just bump into one while trekking through the Indian forests.
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]. – Pizza Ka Yee Chow, Squirrel expert at Hokkaido University
While the Malabar species is listed as a species of ‘least concern’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), their population is still declining. Like most other animals that live in forests, their environment is jeopardized due to deforestation caused by humans.
The real threat is the slow loss and degradation of forested habitats as humans move in and as climate change impacts higher elevation areas. 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. – John Koprowski
As long as we don’t destroy their habitat beyond repair, the ancient Malabar squirrel should be around for a long, long time. I guess it helps to be adaptable…