Malayan Giant Squirrel | UPSC
First-ever study has grim prognosis: native squirrel could vanish from NE after 2050
WHY IN NEWS:
SYLLABUS COVERED: GS 3: Conservation of Biodiversity : Flora and Fauna
For PRELIMS it is important to go through the IUCN status , behaviour , features and its role in ecosystem .
For MAINS can you design a conservation management plan for such species ? Let us dive in !
- It may by the middle of this century no be longer found in the forests of India’s Northeast to which it is native.
- A first-of-its-kind study by the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) under the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.
- ZSI has projected that numbers of the Malayan Giant Squirrel (Ratufa bicolor) could decline by 90 per cent in India by 2050.
- Only 43.38 per cent of the squirrel’s original habitat in India is now favourable to it.
- If urgent steps are not taken, the species could be extinct in the country in subsequent decades.
- Destruction of its habitat could restrict the squirrel to only southern Sikkim and North Bengal by 2050, according to the ZSI.
MALAYAN GIANT SQUIRREL
India is home to three giant squirrel species
- Malayan Giant Squirrel
- Indian Giant Squirrel and
- Grizzled Giant Squirrel – found in peninsular India.
- The Malayan Giant Squirrel, one of the world’s largest squirrel species.
- This species is typically distinctly bicoloured .
- On small islands off Myanmar and in the Strait of Malacca the black giant squirrel has reddish-yellowish underparts.
MALAYAN GIANT SQUIRREL
- Black giant squirrels are distributed from Nepal in the west to Indonesia in the east.
- They can be found across various altitudes, from 500 m to 2500 m above sea level.
- This giant squirrel inhabits tropical and sub-tropical broad-leaved forests.
- It is one of the largest squirrels of the world, an iconic species that lives in the top canopy.
- It is found mostly in evergreen and semi-evergreen forests, from plains to hills.
- Like most squirrels, black giant squirrels eat fruits and nuts.
- Unlike the nocturnal flying squirrels, giant squirrels are diurnal, but arboreal (tree-dwelling) and herbivorous like the flying squirrels.
ROLE IN ECOSYSTEM
- The black giant squirrel plays several roles in the ecosystem, from dispersing seeds to regulating plant populations.
- Deforestation, degradation, and hunting have taken a toll on this species.
- The population of the squirrel in India declined by 30 per cent over the last two decades.
- While the forest area in the Northeast increased by 7,172 sq km from 1987 to 2013, the region lost 628 sq km of forests over the two years that followed.
- In India, some 20% of the population of the species is found at elevations between 1,500 m and 2,700 m.
- The rest live in the plains and up to 1,500 m.
- There are very few records detailing the lifespan of black giant squirrels all of which have been collected from captive, wild-born specimens.
According to the study, the Malayan Giant Squirrel and its habitat are under threat from
- Fragmentation of forests
- Crop cultivation and over-harvesting of food
- Illegal trade in wildlife
- Hunting for consumption
- Slash-and-burn jhum cultivation
- The species is listed as Near Threatened on IUCN’s 2016 list, and it is protected under India’s Wildlife Protection Act.
SOURCES : IUCN RED LIST
- We hadn’t studied giant squirrels comprehensively in this country so far.
- If the state does not come up with a conservation management plan for the Malayan Giant Squirrel quickly, we may lose the species altogether in India.
SOURCES: IE | Malayan Giant Squirrel | UPSC