with wildlife volunteer Rachel Aspinall
These adorable little creatures (pictured) are Eeny, Meeny, Miney and Moe, a quartet of Feathertail Gliders who have recently arrived into care. These little ones became orphans after their home tree was felled. Fortunately, and to my amazement, someone was able to see these tiny marsupials helpless on the ground and call a carer for help.
Feathertail Gliders are found in established forests and woodland as they like to nest in small hollows in trees. They can also sometimes be found nesting in abandoned bird’s nests, palms, stag horns and tree ferns. One was recently brought to me from Mapleton where it was found trying to nest in the mane of a horse!
The Feathertail Glider is the world’s smallest gliding mammal with an average adult weight of just 12g. They are viable from only 1g and are released after being rehabilitated at 10g.
Because they are so tiny, they have trouble staying warm and can enter a state of torpor. This means that for short periods of time their breathing slows down and the animal becomes unresponsive. Their body temperature drops almost to that of its environment, almost like a sort of self-induced coma to prolong survival as long as possible until their surroundings grow warm again.
Feathertail Gliders have flat tails with fringed hair growing on either side, resembling a feather. The tail and the membrane between their limbs helps them to glide up to 28m between trees.
Their feet are webbed similarly to a frog, with sweat glands in the feet creating moisture which combined with the webbing creates a sort of sucker-cup which gliders can use to climb and cling to sheer, smooth surfaces. They’re also a very social species, living in communal groups of up to 30 individuals.
They have a very sweet tooth enjoying pollen, nectar and insects as the core components of their diet. Gardens which are planted with flowering and pollinating native plants can provide them with sustenance but also lure gliders dangerously close to their primary introduced threat, household cats.
In the wild they’re also prey for carnivorous birds like currawongs and kookaburras, and with felling causing destruction of their precious habitats, they can struggle to find appropriate places to nest and become more vulnerable to predation.
It never hurts to keep a careful eye out, particularly around recently downed trees – you never know what you might find that needs help.