Malabar Giant Squirrel or Ratufa Indica Maxima
Indian Giant Squirrel or Malabar Giant Squirrel is a large forest squirrel seen in south Asia. It is locally called as ‘Malayannan’ in Kerala, which means ‘Mountain Squirrel’ in the native language. Declared threatened status, the Malabar Giant Squirrel is classified as ‘vulnerable’ according to the red list of IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural resources).
Ratufa Indica Maxima, as it is named scientifically, belongs to the family Sciuridae of Rodentia order that comes under the class Mammalia. They are found in the Evergreen rain forests of Western Ghats and Eastern India, where they are endemic to.
The size of an adult male is up to one metre in length, and it weighs near 2 kilograms. The 2 feet long bushy tail helps it to balance while climbing trees. They have a deep brown, almost black, coat with buff-coloured under side. It produces an interesting whistling sound, which is often mistaken for a sound coming from an electronic equipment. Interestingly, it rarely leaves treetops, always travelling through trees by leaping a maximum length of 6.5 metres from one tree to another.
Being a diurnal animal it is active during the daytime and rests at night. Mainly feeds on fruits and leaves. It lives alone or in couples. These animals build sphere shaped nests of twigs and leaves and keeps them positioned between tree branches.
Due to hunting, loss of habitat and trade of parts, the Malabar Giant Squirrels are threatened to extinction. In Kerala, they are protected in the wildlife sanctuaries of Neyyar and Peppara in Thiruvananthapuram, Periyar Tiger Reserve in Idukki, Silent Valley National Park in Palakkad, and Eravikulam National Park in Idukki.