Deep in the forests of Australia, Papua New Guinea, and Indonesia another world exists. Amongst the tall boughs of the eucalyptus trees prevalently found in these areas is a tiny airborne wonder. It climbs nimbly from branch to branch, sniffing about with its snout for grubs or any nectar or eucalyptus sap. Suddenly, the long-tailed creature notices thousands of ants coming up the trunk of the great tree. For most animals this would leave two options: wait to be eaten by ants or jump to possible doom. Not so for the sugar glider, it hops into the air, unfurling flaps of skin on its sides and floats to safety on a new trunk up to 400 feet away.
A small gliding marsupial, also known to scientists as petaurus breviceps, is similar in body shape to the common squirrel. Its tail is partially prehensile and is used for balance, and steering when the little creature is in flight. The males of the species measure about one foot in length, with the body assuming five to six inches of this dimension. The females are slightly smaller. Often considered “cute”, the soft blue-grey fur of the sugar glider has been known to also come in tan, yellow and albino. A black stripe chases from its nose to the base of its shoulders. The chest and underside of the animal are usually a white or cream color. The membrane that stretches from the fifth finger to the first toe is called the Patagium. This is also the technical name for the membrane on a bat’s wing.
With almost feline characteristics, sugar gliders make for wonderfully charming pets. The happiest gliders are the gliders with friends. Keeping the animals in pairs and groups is a great way to maintain happy pets. Interaction with the owner is key to bonding with the glider, who will consider its owner as an equal. A rather clean animal, the sugar glider does not have intricate or complex housing requirements. Many a happy and contented glider rode in its owner’s pocket, practically grinning to themselves. In the forests of Australia, these creatures live, hunt, and die within family units. Bonding to a family is therefore almost as second nature to the marsupials, making them great pets.
The sugar glider is a rather new option for domesticated pets, meaning its dietary needs(in captivity) are not completely known or understood. In the wild the sugar glider is a nocturnal hunter and forager. Its staples are the sap of the eucalyptus and acacia trees. Being omnivorous however, the creature also stalks small invertebrates and has even been known to hunt small rodents and birds. This diet can be extremely difficult to replicate in the home for obvious reasons, so here is an assembled recipe from a well-known zoologist:
1.) Mix 150 milliliters of warm water with an equal amount of (unflavored) honey in a medium bowl.
2.) Next, mash up one shelled boiled egg gradually into the honey and water mixture.
3.) Blend in twenty-five grams of high protein baby cereal until smooth
4.) Blend in one teaspoon vitamin and mineral powdered supplement (can be found in any pet store)
5.) Shake in one tablespoon mixed insects (such as commercially raised and fed crickets, meal worms, wax worms, moths, and even spiders)
This recipe is for a single animal. Please note that during the winter the sugar glider generally enters a state of torpor, or hibernation and will require less food. Conversely, during the warmer months of June and July, the creatures will consume much more, building up fat stores for the cold season. Also, the animals require more energy if they are breeding or nursing, and this recipe should be edited for those times.
Males reach sexual maturity a bit faster than females of the species, but both sexes are completely mature by one year of age. In the wild, breeding occurs only once or twice a year, but with proper diet and consistently safe living conditions these animals can have several litters a year. Joey’s, as baby sugar gliders are called, can come in singles but much more often come in pairs. After the gestation period, typically fifteen to seventeen days, the infant glider crawls into its mother’s pouch and attaches to a nipple for sixty to seventy days. Four months of growth later and the little joey is all on its own.
The sugar glider is a beautiful animal and wonderful companion-pet for all ages. But care must be taken to only purchase these marvelous animals through reputable dealers of exotic pets. The sugar glider is fortunate to be protected under Australian law where it is illegal to catch or sell them, or to own one without a research permit. However, the sugar glider’s cousins the Leadbeater’s Possum and the Mahogany Glider are on the endangered species list.