Grizzled giant squirrel (Ratufa macroura)

Also known as: Sri Lankan giant squirrel
  
French: Écureuil Géant De Ceylan, Écureuil Géant Gris
KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassMammalia
OrderRodentia
FamilyScuiridae
GenusRatufa (1)
SizeHead-body length: 25 – 45 cm (2)
Tail length: 25 – 50 cm (2)
Weight1.5 – 3 kg (2)

The grizzled giant squirrel is classified as Near Threatened (NT) on the IUCN Red List (1) and is listed on Appendix II of CITES (3).

The common name of the grizzled giant squirrel (Ratufa macroura) came from the grey to brown colouration highlighted with white at the top of the tail, giving it a grizzled appearance. The rest of the body varies in colour geographically and may be brown, red, grey or black, but the fur on the underside is always lighter than the back. This agile climber is adapted for life spent almost entirely in the trees, and has a very long tail for balance, broad hands for climbing and large claws for gripping branches. The ears are short, round and sometimes tufted (2).

The grizzled giant squirrel is found in Sri Lanka and Western Ghats of southern India (2).

The grizzled giant squirrel inhabits the trees of subtropical and tropical dry forests (1).

Following a gestation of 28 days, the grizzled giant squirrel gives birth to one or two young in a large nest high in the trees. The young are looked after for several months before dispersing. It is thought that the grizzled giant squirrel raises more than one litter each year, but this is unconfirmed (2).

The grizzled giant squirrel is highly territorial and is very vocal upon encountering an intruder. It is usually found alone or occasionally in pairs. When frightened it will either flee, leaping up to six metres between trees, or will flatten itself against a branch, remaining motionless. It is diurnal, spending the day eating fruit, nuts, insects, bird eggs and the bark of some trees. At midday, the squirrel rests; sleeping spread-eagled on a branch (2).

The grizzled giant squirrel is hunted for food and for its fur by forest-dwelling people, and an increasing local human population has caused even the activities of the forest people to become destructive. Habitat degradation has resulted in the thinning of the canopy which makes the grizzled giant squirrel more vulnerable to predation by the black eagle and other aerial predators (2).

The grizzled giant squirrel is listed on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, preventing international trade in this species without a permit, but little other conservation action has been targeted at this species (3). With just 300 individuals remaining in southern India, and only one protected area (Shenbagathope Grizzled Squirrel Sanctuary), it has been suggested that a second protected area be designated in Alagarkoil Valley. Planting native tree species to promote canopy continuity and ensure the availability of food plants and nesting sites has also been recommended (4).

For further information on this species see

For more information on the threats this species faces see:

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
arkive@wildscreen.org.uk

  1. IUCN Red List (June, 2009)
    http://www.redlist.org
  2. Animal Diversity Web (December, 2004)
    http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Ratufa_macroura.html
  3. CITES (December, 2004)
    http://www.cites.org
  4. Joshua, J. and Johnsingh, A.J.T. (1994) Impact of biotic disturbances on the habitat and population of the endangered grizzled giant squirrel Ratufa macroura in South India. Biological Conservation, 68(1): 29 - 34.