Grizzled Giant Squirrels are in IUCN Red list

Researchers are looking into the ecology of one of the least studied species of an elusive animal, the Grizzled Giant Squirrel.

The Indian population of the arboreal rodent species is believed to be around 500 and the Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary houses around 150 of them, the only place from where the rodent species has been reported in the State.

In rest of the country, the population of the smallest of the giant squirrels in India has been reported from Srivalliputhur in Tamil Nadu and Cauvery in Karnataka. Researchers are clueless about the limited population of the species as its cousins breed and survive in large numbers in the forests of the country. The species is found in good numbers in Sri Lanka too.

“There are a good number of Malabar Giant Squirrels, the other giant squirrel species found in Kerala, and Black Giant Squirrels, also known as Malayan Giant Squirrel, found in the forests of northeast,” researchers of the College of Forestry of the Kerala Agriculture University, Thrissur, said.

The population of the Malabar variety is supposed to be over 5,000 in the country and confined to south Indian States. The grizzled species had a low rate of reproduction and was more vulnerable to risks of survival, researchers said.

Scientific literature describes the animal, also known as Sri Lankan Giant Squirrel, as one with “brownish-grey colour and pale hair tips giving it a grizzled look. Its underside is dirty white. The ears, crown and dorsal midline are dark brown or black. The ears are short, round and often tufted. The tail is as long or longer than head and body and has long pale hair, making it look greyish when compared to the tails of other sub-species.”

It was in 1993 that a primary research was first done on the species. Since then, it escaped the attention of researchers.

The squirrel is believed to be feeding on fruits, flowers and leaves of trees. However, no specific information is available on the feeding and breeding habits of the species, which has been classified as Near Threatened in the Red list of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).