A conservation plan for the endangered giant squirrel is being chalked out which inhabits the Bhimashankar Wildlife Sanctuary near Pune

Forest Department officials have teamed up with Bangalore-based Indian Institute of Science (IISc) to chalk out a conservation plan for the endangered giant squirrel, which inhabits the Bhimashankar Wildlife Sanctuary near here.

A peculiar animal known for its shyness and lightning pace, the Ratusa Indica species or the Indian giant squirrel is an attraction for the wildlife enthusiasts visiting the Bhimashankar forest, which also happens to house a famous Shiv temple, one of the 12 “Jyotirlignas“.

“In coordination with IISc, we are working out a Geographical Information System (GIS) map to identify threats to the existence of the squirrel to know whether the forest area occupied by it is shrinking or not,” Conservator of Forests (Wildlife) M.K. Rao said.

At present, a census of the animal is being carried out by counting of its nests in the forest and the proposed GIS map is also expected to denote the human disturbance index.

“A healthy forest is needed to support the squirrel, which sustains itself on just leaves and fruit,” Mr. Rao said.

The IISc experts would interact with the forest field staff to enhance their technical skills for a better understanding of the ecology of giant squirrel, which leaps from one tree to another but never descends on the ground and makes five to six nests before onset of the monsoon.

A decline in forest canopy in the Bhimashankar region is seen as a threat to the potential habitat of the giant squirrel.