Taronga Zoo is celebrating the breeding success of more than 20 Feather-tail Glider infants, the smallest gliding mammals in the world.
The Zoo’s Australian Fauna keepers were delighted to find 23 infant Feather-tail Gliders when checking the nest boxes and pouches of the adult breeding females. They ranged from hairless young which are about the size of a grain of rice to individuals that were just a few centimetres in length.
Senior Keeper, Robert Dockerill, said: “We are really proud of these little gliders. We were the first zoo in the world to breed Feather-tails and are the only ones to do it consistently.”
“It’s fantastic to be a world leader at something!” said Robert.
“We think the secret comes down to the group dynamics. There has to be heaps of females. Being such small animals, the mothers need extra females to share the load of the babies.”
“There also has to be a few males for the females to choose from.”
“Just like us, they’re not going to get on with everyone, and we’ve found that female Feather-tails like to be able to compare males to help decide on a mate.”
The infants will be out of their mothers’ pouches at approximately seven weeks of age and fully emerged from the nest box by 12 weeks of age and integrated into the colony.
When fully grown, the newborns will be about the size of a small mouse and weigh approximately the same as two to three teaspoons of water.
Feather-tail Gliders are found across the eastern seaboard of Australia. They are often mistaken for mice, but a closer inspection reveals they have a special membrane which stretches from front to rear feet that helps them glide up to 20 meters. They also have a delicate feathered tail that they use as a rudder during flight from which they get their name.
Although one of the lesser known Australian animals, the Feather-tail Glider used to feature on the one cent coin before it was taken out of circulation.
Taronga Zoo’s Feather-tail Gliders can be seen in the Zoo’s Nightlife Exhibit which brings visitors face to face with Australia’s nocturnal wildlife including Northern Quolls, Bilbies and the energetic native Plains Rats.