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Madeleine Smitham
Feathertail Glider joey

Taronga is celebrating the birth of seven tiny Feathertail Glider joeys who can already be seen scampering around in their Australian Nightlife exhibit.

 The juvenile gliders are a grey colour so keen-eyed visitors will be able to see them scurry amongst the larger and browner-coloured adults. The Feathertail Glider is the smallest of all glider species, weighing just 15 grams and growing to a maximum of 8cm.

 They’re named after their long tail that is fringed with stiff hairs that resemble a feather, which helps them to steer and brake while gliding up to 20 meters.

 Taronga is believed to be the first Zoo to ever successfully breed Feathertail Gliders, and in the last decade has seen the birth of up to 200 individuals.

 Australian Fauna Keeper, Rob Dockerill, said: “We get two lots of breeding a year, one at the end of summer and one at the end of spring, so these new joeys are probably about 13 or 14 weeks old. 

“When they’re born they’re half the size of a grain of rice, but once they get to be about one centimetre long in the pouch mum’s feet barely touch the ground.  So the mothers leave them in a communal nest, taking turns watching over the joeys.

 “All the joeys are peeking out from their nest box and exploring their exhibit with the adults,” said Rob.

Taronga is also home to the oldest Feathertail Glider known, aged 10 and a half years.

“It’s much easier to live here than out in the wild. They’re officially classified as secure but there’s no real idea how many there are. When you’re half the size of a mouse and come out at night no one knows anything about you. You can still find these animals around Sydney but when you’re that small, everything eats you. Life can’t be easy for them out there,” said Rob.

“These animals have microscopic hairs on their feet giving them the ability to run up glass, they can glide the length of a cricket pitch and are very speedy. You’ve got to have a few tricks when everyone is out to eat you.”

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