A juvenile Squirrel Glider named Maluka is helping Taronga tell the story of surviving Squirrel Gliders around Newport – Barrenjoey.
Maluka, which means Boss Man, is now playing a vital role as an ambassador for his species at the Zoo’s Education Centre after being hand-raised for three months by keeper, Jen Tate.
Squirrel Gliders are all but gone from the Sydney area so this population was an exciting discovery. When Jen found out about it she decided to take this opportunity to show this rare visitor from the North Shore around to the local Avalon Public school. She introduced Maluka to the children “to get them excited about helping our native wildlife!”
She encouraged the school children to plant native trees in their backyard to give Squirrel Gliders a place to find food and shelter. The main threats for Squirrel Gliders are habitat fragmentation and attacks by domestic animals.
Native trees are vitally important to Squirrel Gliders as they are adept climbers and are rarely found on the ground. They glide using the membrane of skin between their front and back legs to swoop up to 50 meters above flat terrain or up to 100 metres downhill.
As testament to his gliding abilities, Jen said that while she was raising him, one night “he flew off the couch, bounded across the living room and in a matter of seconds had pounced on a large cockroach and was munching it down like a kid with a cob of corn.”
However as a nocturnal animal, while he is highly active during the night, during the day he “nestles into your hand and would happily receive chin scratches all day long!”
Jen says, “I thought I would use Maluka to get kids excited and involved about doing things around their house to try and promote and help the Squirrel Gliders or other native animals in the local area.
“Things like keeping dogs and cats in at night, planting native flowering tree species and not feeding native wildlife.”