We're used to squirrels that are gray or a coppery red and relatively small. Sure, we may come across a squirrel that has had a few too many acorns, but that's about it.
This isn't the case in India, however. The country is home to a very colorful and large squirrel species, Ratufa indica, otherwise known as the Indian giant squirrel or the Malabar giant squirrel.
Just take a look!
Indian giant squirrels live up to their name. (Photo: VinodBhattu/Wikimedia Commons)
That's some tail!
These squirrels, native to India, sport a colorful patchwork of fur, with colors ranging from beige and tan to shades of brown and rust. The squirrels' bodies can grow up to 14 inches (36 centimeters) or so, while their tails can stretch on for 2 feet That's more than 3 feet of squirrel! By comparison, your run-of-the-mill gray squirrel typically grows to about 22 inches, including the tail.
And body length isn't the only thing that sets these squirrels apart. They can weigh up to 5 pounds (2.2 kilograms), or about the average weight of a Chihuahua. Gray squirrels only weigh in at 1.5 pounds, at most.
Indian giant squirrels stick close to the treetops. (Photo: P.V.S.Sarma/Wikimedia Commons)
These squirrels prefer the tops of trees to the ground, foraging for nuts, fruits and flowers far from the ground for safety.
However, birds of prey have an easier time catching the squirrels ... if it weren't for that colorful fur. Researchers believe their coat helps them to better blend into the canopy, affording them some protection from predators.
"In the shaded understory of a dense forest, the patchy colors and dark hues are a great adaptation to avoiding detection," John Koprowski, professor and associate director at the School of Natural Resources and the Environment at the University of Arizona, told The Dodo. "But when you see these in the sunlight, they show their 'true colors' and beautiful pelage [fur]."
The squirrels play an important part in the environment by dispersing seeds in their poo.
Indian giant squirrels are relatively solitary creatures. (Photo: N.A.Nazeer/Wikimedia Commons)
These squirrels may have a butterfly's colors, but they're not social butterflies. They're rarely seen in pairs, and then only during breeding activities. We don't know much about their breeding habits, either. Breeding may occur throughout the year, or at least several times a year, and litter sizes are typically small, with only one to two infants.
Don't let those small birth numbers worry you, though. The squirrels are classified as a species of "least concern" by the IUCN, though habitat loss is a problem.
“The real threat is the slow loss and degradation of forested habitats as humans move in and as climate change impacts higher elevation areas," Koprowski said. "The good news is that they have a wide distribution and seem to tolerate human presence and even some modest level of low-density housing."
Indian giant squirrels split from other squirrels at least 30 million years ago. (Photo: PREJU SURESH/Shutterstock)
These colorful squirrels likely took root around 30 to 35 million years ago, following a diversification in squirrel species.
Still, you can only find them in India, and they are shy, wary creatures. This makes them difficult to see, even for seasoned squirrel seekers.
"They are pretty shy," Pizza Ka Yee Chow, squirrel expert and research fellow at Hokkaido University, told The Dodo. "One of my friends who lives in India shared with me that the best way to see these giant squirrels is to climb up on a tree, stay very quiet and wait for them to emerge from their [nest]."
at 11:52 AM
Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what Frost tasted of desire
He held with those who favor fire.
But added if it must end twice,
His understanding of man’s hate
Informed him for destruction ice
Is also great and would suffice.
But in my present case I note
The first becomes my final vote.
What’s been started from a flicker
Gets it done a whole lot quicker.
Following the October 2017 Blaze That Consumed Our House (apologies to Robert Frost)
Swing thuribles lit with sweet flickering
frankincense and cedar shavings
over Paradise this place as in the irony of
a Talking Heads song where everything is good
when no thing or place ever truly is all good
Purge us with hyssop and we shall be clean
Bathe us in the rose water used in Arabia to clean the Kaaba
and in Persia to prepare graves for the dead
For evil must be washed away that death have not dominion
where the land will be reclaimed from possession by monsters
Bring forth the tincture of a billion blossoms
The evil creature hath been amongst us
befouling our beautiful wounded land
with the stench of offal from its breath
condemning each of us to its lingering presence
our fate far worse if we do nothing to dissipate
the foul choking blackening smoke that
the monster has belched forth and left us
wearily sickening all the more so that he’d been
here amongst us during another time of great sorrow
Gather sage and cedar to smudge the sacred places twice destroyed
first by fire then by sacrilege to the ancients the Mechoopda
of the Maidu people whose spirits reside in the central Sierras
in the watershed area of the Feather and American rivers
as well as in Humbug Valley Maidu meaning Man
will persist watching over this land so rudely visited by fire and evil
Today we chant with them to Creator to restore the trees and native plants, grasses, animals ... Everything out here is connected to the lives of
our Maidu ancestors whom we protect and by whom we are protected
that such affronts to each and every Mechoopda too shall pass beyond
(occasioned by Donald Trump’s brief visit to the ruins of Paradise, CA — November 17, 2018)
A lioness is the primary hunter for the pride. Her keen senses, strength and precise pouncing make her a force to be reckoned with. However, one man has been able to join the pride, appropriately named, “The Lion Whisperer.”
Kevin Richardson has dedicated his life to interacting, documenting, and preserving the lives of Africa’s predators. He came upon two abandoned lion cubs seven years ago in a watery ditch. Kevin took them into his sanctuary about an hour northeast of Johannesburg, South Africa. The sanctuary is a place where the large predators live in a natural environment and are safe from humans.
“I firmly believe that if I never had got Meg and Amy back, that they would have ended up in some shape or form in the canned lion-hunting market,” Richardson states. Both of the lionesses immediately displayed their intense hunting skills.
Richardson recalls one instance where the two lionesses fanned out and talked to each other while on the hunt, like they would in the wild. One flushed out the animal, while the other one pounced. “It was just in their DNA.”
The sanctuary was founded by Richardson with a goal of, “Through education, outreach and funding, our mission is to bring awareness to the rapid decline of large carnivores in Africa due to habitat loss, human-predator conflict, the illegal bush meat trade, unscrupulous hunting, disease, and illegal trade.”
Richardson was reunited with Meg, one of the lioness he rescued in a heart-pounding reunion. Meg seemed to be stalking some prey, but instead was approaching the pond where Richardson was. Once she reached the water’s edge, she paused. Not sure of what was swimming below the water, she hesitated to enter.
However, her complete trust in Richardson was proven when she leaped into his arms in the water. He reassured her through gesturing and talking to her. She could easily hurt or kill him with all “her serious weaponry”, but instead licks his face. “Wow, this lion trusts me enough to come into the water,” he exclaims.
“Meg and Amy are kind of my soul mates. It is kind of like humans, you can meet many many people in your life. But there are very few that you connect whole heartedly with. “I know lions on an emotional, personal level.” Richardson believes that hunting these magnificent animals is personal. The video was composed in memory of the late Cecil. “I do not see them as this commodity.”