This week's squirrel spotlight star ⭐️🐿 is the Grizzled Giant Squirrel (Ratufa macroura). These oversized tree squirrels 🌲are native to India and are sometimes called the Sri Lankan giant squirrel. India is known to have three giant squirrel species; the black giant squirrel, the Indian giant flying squirrel and the grizzled giant squirrel. The grizzled giant is the smallest of the bunch.
Grizzled giant squirrels spend their entire lives in the tree tops 🌲 only appearing on the ground occasionally to escape predators. This species lives a solitary lifestyle and will live most of their lives alone with the exception of mating and caring for young.
Unlike most of the tree squirrels we are familiar with in North America, the grizzled giant is extremely territorial. When an intruding squirrel enters another grizzled giant's territory they will be met with an extremely loud vocalization 📣by the territory owner. This serves as a warning to leave the area before being chased out!
Grizzled giant squirrels are struggling in the wild. Their population has been declining at a steady pace over the last 30 years due primarily to habitat loss caused by farming, logging, and human settlement.
The grizzled giant squirrel is listed as near threatened on the IUCN Red List. The Red List is assembled by the the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and serves as a guide for indicating a species well-being in the wild and as a barometer of how close they are to becoming extinct. The Red List is a very commonly used tool in the creation of conservation and species management plans.
Species are assessed and given a category on a list that ranges from "Least Concern" to "Extinct." For example, the chart below shows how the grizzled giant squirrel faired in its IUCN assessment.
Grizzled giants are considered Near Threatened. In comparison to endangered species such as the Asian elephant (Elephas maximus) or critically endangered species like the Sunda Pangolin (Manis javanica), grizzled giants are doing pretty well. However, it is important to take their Near Threatened listing seriously. Work done now to stop further population decline could prevent this species from becoming endangered in the future.
Currently, populations of grizzled giants are being closely monitored. Many live within protected lands free from the threat. Further, trade of this species is highly regulated.
Check out this adorable video of a Grizzled Giant Squirrel enjoy a snack!
(Nowak, 1991), (Joshua & Johnsingh, 1994), (Molur et al. 2005), (IUCN Red List (December 2018))