Have you ever seen something as cute as a baby animal? Well, let me introduce you to Boop, the smallest resident at the Australia Zoo Wildlife Warriors. This little bundle of joy is a baby feathertail glider, and her cuteness is simply unmatched.
Boop’s story is quite remarkable. After escaping her mother’s pouch and weighing less than one gram, she was discovered at the wildlife sanctuary. Now, the dedicated team at the zoo is ensuring that Boop receives the best care possible before she is released back into the wild.
Feathertail gliders are truly unique creatures. Their distinctive flat tail, covered in stiff fringed hair, grows horizontally on either side all the way to the tip. This gives them their name and also helps them steer and brake as they gracefully glide through the trees.
What’s even more fascinating is their feathery tail, which measures 7-8 centimeters in length and resembles a bird’s feather. Imagine a mammal with a tail that looks like a delicate plume!
When fully grown, these tiny gliders weigh only 10-15 grams. Their small size can sometimes make them go unnoticed or even mistaken for a mouse. But don’t be fooled by their size, these gliders are part of the Burramyidae family and are closely related to Pygmy possums.
Due to their small stature, feathertail gliders enter a state called torpor when they need to conserve energy. This is similar to hibernation but not quite the same. During torpor, their breathing slows down, they temporarily lose consciousness, and their body temperature drops to match their environment.
Feathertail gliders have a beautiful combination of grey and brown fur, with a light cream to white abdomen. Just like other gliders, they have a skin fold that extends from the elbow to the knee, serving as their gliding membrane. Their long hair is curled at the border to increase their body surface area while gliding.
When stretched out, these gliders can travel great distances, like a falling leaf, reaching up to 28 meters in one glide. They spend most of their time in trees, feasting on nectar, pollen, and insects. When they need to move from one tree to another, they take to the air and gracefully glide through.
Their feet may resemble those of a frog, but with fur instead of scales. They have large padded toes with serrated grooves underneath, allowing them to climb almost anything. In fact, they can even climb vertical glass panes using tiny suction cups created by numerous sweat glands on their footpads.
Feathertail gliders can be found across eastern Australia, from South Australia to far North Queensland. They build their nests using anything from abandoned bird nests to banana sacks, covering them with leaves, feathers, and shredded wood. These nests have a spherical shape and range from 6-8 cm in diameter.
In the northern parts of the country, they live in communal groups of 5 to 30 individuals and reproduce throughout the year. In the south, they prefer to reproduce in the spring, summer, and late winter. These little gliders live for about four years in the wild and, interestingly, both males and females are essentially identical in size and appearance.
So, if you ever come across a feathertail glider, remember Boop’s adorable journey and take a moment to appreciate the cuteness and resilience of these tiny creatures.