India boasts an impressive array of squirrel species, each with its own unique traits and geographical range. Among the most iconic is the Indian giant squirrel, with its stunning multicoloured fur, inhabiting the forests of southern India. Urban and rural areas are also teeming with Indian palm squirrels, renowned for their lively antics. Gardens and forests across India harbour the five-striped palm squirrel, featuring five distinctive stripes that set it apart from other squirrels. While squirrels are widely admired for their vital role in seed dispersal and forest regeneration, they can also pose a nuisance to homeowners, damaging property and electrical wiring. Nonetheless, these captivating creatures form an essential part of India’s diverse and invaluable wildlife, adding to the country’s rich biological heritage
|SL NO||Characteristics||Grizzled Giant Squirrel|
|1||Common Name||Grizzled Giant Squirrel|
|2||Scientific Name||Ratufa macroura|
|3||Length||25-45 cm (body) + 45-60 cm (tail)|
|4||Colour||Grizzled greyish-brown fur with lighter underparts|
|5||Height / girth||Up to 50 cm (height)|
|6||Tail length||45-60 cm|
|7||Height till shoulder||Around 30 cm|
|8||Average weight||1.5-2 kg|
|9||Food habits||Primarily herbivorous, feeding on fruits, nuts, and leaves|
|10||Habitat||Canopy of tropical and subtropical forests in South Asia|
|11||Interesting facts||The Grizzled Giant Squirrel is known for its large size and distinctive grizzled fur, which helps them blend in with the forest canopy. They are agile climbers and jumpers, able to leap up to 6 metres between trees. Their bushy tail is used for balance while jumping and as a parachute while descending. They are also important seed dispersers for many plant species in their habitat. The Grizzled Giant Squirrel is distributed across India, Sri Lanka, and parts of Southeast Asia. They are protected under the Wildlife Protection Act in India.|
The Grizzled Giant Squirrel (Ratufa macroura) is a species of arboreal rodent found in South and Southeast Asia. The Grizzled Giant Squirrel has a distinctive grizzled, grayish-brown fur on its back, with a creamy-white belly. Its fur is soft and dense, and its long bushy tail is usually darker than the rest of its body. This species is one of the largest squirrels in the world, with an average body length of 36-45 cm and a tail length of 45-60 cm. Males are usually larger than females, weighing between 1.2-2 kg, while females weigh between 0.9-1.3 kg. The Grizzled Giant Squirrel is well adapted for an arboreal lifestyle, with several unique features. Its strong hind legs and long, curved claws allow it to climb and cling to tree trunks and branches. It also has a keen sense of hearing and vision, and can jump up to 6 meters between trees. The Grizzled Giant Squirrel is diurnal and spends most of its time high up in the forest canopy, feeding on leaves, fruits, nuts, and bark. While males are generally larger than females, there are no significant physical differences between the sexes. However, during the breeding season, males may display aggressive behavior towards each other in competition for females. Females typically give birth to one or two offspring at a time, which they raise in nests made of twigs and leaves in the treetops.
The Grizzled Giant Squirrel is primarily herbivorous and feeds on a variety of plant material including leaves, fruits, nuts, bark, and flowers. In the Western Ghats, their diet mainly consists of the seeds of trees such as Artocarpus, Canarium, and Terminalia. They are also known to eat some insects and small animals on rare occasions.
The Grizzled Giant Squirrel is found in various habitats across South and Southeast Asia, including evergreen and deciduous forests, plantations, and gardens. In India, this species is found in the southern regions , the Western Ghats, Nilgiri Mountains, along Kaveri River.
The species is almost entirely an arboreal, very rarely coming to the ground to escape from predators, to flee from an intruder, attack males of the territory, and connecting with females
The Grizzled Giant Squirrel is considered “Near Threatened” species in India due to habitat loss, fragmentation, and degradation. The population of this species is declining, and it is estimated that there are currently fewer than 10,000 mature individuals left in the wild.
The Grizzled Giant Squirrel faces several threats in India, including deforestation, logging, encroachment of forests, hunting, and poaching. Habitat loss and fragmentation due to human activities such as agriculture, urbanisation, and infrastructure development are the biggest threats to their survival. The species is also hunted for its meat and fur, which are used in traditional medicine and local crafts.
Conservation efforts are underway to protect the Grizzled Giant Squirrel in India. The species is protected under Schedule II of the Wildlife Protection Act of India, which prohibits hunting and trade in its parts and derivatives. Several protected areas in India, such as the Anamalai Tiger Reserve, the Periyar Tiger Reserve, and the Silent Valley National Park, are important strongholds for this species. Habitat restoration and management programs, public awareness campaigns, and research initiatives are also being carried out to conserve this species.
Although the exact number of Grizzled Giant Squirrels in India is not known, it is estimated that their population has declined by at least 30% over the past three generations, and their future remains uncertain without effective conservation measures.
The Grizzled Giant Squirrel is found in several protected areas in India, including national parks, wildlife sanctuaries, and forest reserves. Here are some of the national parks in India where this species can be found:
Anamalai Tiger Reserve in the Western Ghats of Tamil Nadu and Kerala, is home to several species of rare and endangered wildlife, including the Grizzled Giant Squirrel.
Silent Valley National Park situated in the Palakkad district of Kerala is known for its pristine tropical rainforests and is home to several endemic and endangered species of flora and fauna, including the Grizzled Giant Squirrel.
Periyar Tiger Reserve in the Western Ghats of Kerala, is known for its rich biodiversity and is home to several species of mammals, birds, and reptiles, including the Grizzled Giant Squirrel.
Kalakad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve situated in the southern part of the Western Ghats in Tamil Nadu, is known for its high species diversity and is home to several rare and endangered species, including the Grizzled Giant Squirrel.
Indravati National Park in the state of Chhattisgarh, is known for its diverse wildlife, including several species of mammals, birds, and reptiles, including the Grizzled Giant Squirrel.
These national parks play a crucial role in protecting the habitat of the Grizzled Giant Squirrel and other species of wildlife, and conservation efforts are underway to ensure their survival.