Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Creature Feature: Cream-Colored Giant Squirrel.

Any environmentalist  will tell you that every animal alive today has its place in the world. Every single species is a special little snowflake and a piece of a much bigger puzzle. This blog was made to celebrate how wicked awesome other species are. If you've been reading this blog, this paragraph was a broken record to you.

Then there are some animals that make us go, "the fark, nature? Why is this thing still alive?" The panda bear is on that list. So is this:

The Cream-colored Giant Squirrel (Ratufa affinis) is one of those animals. It can be found only in Thailand, Brunei, Indonesia, and Malaysia. It eats seeds, leaves, bark, and insects. It is almost completely arboreal. It is thought extinct in Singapore and Vietnam, making the stamp above very ironic. 

So, let's get some facts down. The Cream-colored Giant Squirrel ("creamy-squirrel") is exactly what it says on the tin: a pale squirrel that is giant. It can get almost a yard long from the tip of its nose to the end of its long, bushy tail, which helps it balance like a tripod while eating. Along with being pale, these giant squirrels are usually boldly marked. The name alone says that this animal should not survive.

Surprise surprise: It just barely lives. OK, so it's not on the Endangered List  yet, but it is near-threatened. These squirrels are easy to hunt and prone to deforestation. As arboreal animals, even sustainable logging might be a threat. What else is new? Well...

Along with human interference, the creamy-squirrel has competition from the giant black squirrel. In most of its range, these two squirrels share habitat. The only place where creamy-squirrel is truly safe is in Borneo, where it is the only giant squirrel. The main difference is that creamy-squirrels do not so much as go to the ground to feed, whereas the black squirrels leave the trees every now and then; otherwise, the creamy-squirrels have no real niche. Regardless of how many enemies the cream-colored squirrel has, I bet this is one of the few times you will ever hear of a squirrel going extinct.

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