The Malayan colugo (Galeopterus variegatus) is also known as the Malayan flying lemur or the Sunda flying lemur. This is one of the two ‘flying lemur’ species, with the other being the Philippine flying lemur. Contrary to its name, the Malayan colugo is not a lemur (found in Madagascar) and does not fly. It is a large arboreal (tree-dwelling) night active mammal species found throughout Southeast Asia in Cambodia, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Myanmar and Singapore. Their habitats include tropical rain forests, gardens and plantations. A recent research has found that they preferred habitats with thick tree canopy cover.
If they don’t fly, what then?
They are gliders. The Malayan colugo use their amazing gliding skills to descent to lower heights from the forest canopies. Extending their strong large fold of kite shaped skin (known as patagium) when leaping off trees help them to glide from point A to point B. Records show that they can glide up to a distance of 100 metres. Gliding between longer distances enables the colugo to avoid high impact landing leading to injuries¹. So further the destination, the better.
It spots a reddish/brownish grey fur shade and can measure between 34 to 38 cm (head to body) in length. The tail measures between 24 to 25 cm with a weight range between 0.9 to 1.3 kg. It is definitely not a small fella!
The Malayan colugo has big beautiful forward facing eyes, giving it excellent vision complimenting its night time activities. The facial features include a small head, small rounded ears and a blunt muzzle. Although they look like a large bat (e.g. flying foxes), they are more closely related to primates.
What does it eat?
The diet of this herbivorous species consists of leaves, buds, shoots, flowers, fruits and sap (only from selected trees).
Tell me about the conservation status
At present, the Malayan colugo has been listed as ‘Least Concern (ver 3.1)‘ in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. The IUCN – International Union for the Conservation of Nature is the world’s leading authority on the conservation status of species.
Why ‘Least Concern’?
When you refer to the IUCN page, the justification for the ‘Least Concern (ver 3.1)’ listing is that their population is not declining at a fast rate to escalate to a higher status (e.g. Near Threatened, Vulnerable). The main threats are habitat loss (e.g. housing developments), deforestation, competition from other species with similar diet and habitat requirements and finally, hunting. Good news is, they are protected under national legislation with some populations found in protected areas (i.e. Peninsular Malaysia and Java).
I am sure many will agree that no matter what the conservation status is, the threats faced by these species are real and ongoing which affects their population numbers. By reading this post, together we have discovered what a Malayan colugo is and hopefully continue to learn more about them and share this knowledge with our family and friends. To me, awareness is always a great first step towards species conservation.
¹. Byrnes, G., Norman T. -L., Lim., and Andrew, J. Spence. (2008). Take-off and landing kinetics of a free-ranging gliding mammal, the Malayan colugo (Galeopterus variegatus). The Royal Society Publishing. DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2007.1684. Free full text.