Nation’s most endangered mammal on our doorstep
MAHOGANY gliders are one of the most endangered mammals in Australia, but until the mid 1990s they were thought to be extinct.
“They were misidentified as squirrel gliders and only became known as a distinct species in 1993,” said JCU student Eryn Chang, who is studying the marsupials for her PHD.
“Before this identification in 1993, people thought the species was extinct.”
Mahogany gliders are like a bigger version of a sugar glider, about twice the size, with membranes, called patagium, between their arms and legs so they can glide the distance between trees.
Ms Chang said that unlike other species of glider, mahogany gliders have a limited
range and are found only in the Wet Tropics of Queensland in open forests below 200m elevation.
“They prefer forests with a high density of flowering trees,” she said. “Preferably forests with a grass understorey. They live in tree holes during the day and only come out at night to feed on nectars.”
Ms Chang said their limited range means they are under threat from humans encroaching upon their habitat and converting it into agricultural land.
“The lowland sclerophyll forests the gliders live in are also suitable for all kinds of plantation and development, including sugar cane plantation, pine plantation, and cattle farming,” she said.
“They’ve lost a majority of their habitats, and the remaining habitats are highly fragmented or transforming into rainforests. This is why they are considered one of the most endangered mammals in Australia.”
Ms Chang hopes that increased public awareness of their status will make more people want to protect the species.
“Mahogany gliders are amazing creatures that everyone would fall in love with after seeing them in the wild,” she said. “They are very fluffy and cute.”