The Colugo, also know as the “Flying Lemur” is neither a lemur nor does it fly. They are mammals from an ancient lineage, with only two species making up the whole order Dermopetra. They are the most excellent mammal gliders, with a thin membrane stretched from their nails to the tail.
They live in jungles, in Burma, Indochina, the Philippines, Southern Thailand and a few other places. It has a very unique appearance, reaching up to 38cm in body length and having a small head with red eyes, similar to bat (although they are not closely related). They are usually reddish brown, with no particular markings on their fur.
The Colugo on a tree
The Colugos are rather vary, nocturnal creatures that mostly lead a solitary life, except for mothers with their young. They have amazing gliding skills, being able to glide more than 70 metres (230 feet) from one tree to another with minimal loss of height, in search of leaves, fruit and flowers, which they mostly feed on. Interestingly, these gliding mammals are quite failing climbers, as they lack opposing thumbs, thus lacking a solid grip to be used upon climbing a tree.
Their mating habits haven’t been fully researched, although it is known that the gestation period lasts for about sixty days, after which an undeveloped Colugo is born. The young spend quite a long time developing – about two years, during which time they’re very dependent on their mothers.
The Colugos are listed as “Threatened” by the IUCN. The main natural threats to these tiny mammals include birds and other predators that can catch the gliding animals. The Philippine Flying Lemur is gravely endangered by the Philippine Eagle – some sources suggest that the Flying Lemurs account for 90% of the eagle’s diet.
A Colugo gliding from one tree to another
The Colugos are threatened by the destruction of their natural habitat and their population is in a slow decline, although both the species are relatively safe in terms of conservation. Being quite large for tree mammals (the size of a very large squirrel or an possum), the Colugos are often hunted by natives and used in their diets.
These gliding mammals are perhaps one of the most elusive inhabitants of the forest and anything without wings has little chance of catching it. Combined with the Colugo’s cautious nature, not many people have had the experience of holding them in hands. Nevertheless, they are a very unique species, and looking like bats, gliding like flying squirrels and called lemurs, they are actually a completely unique and ancient order, more related to primates than anything else.