Malabar Giant Squirrel (Ratufa indica) is a species endemic to Peninsular India, from evergreen to moist and dry deciduous forests of the Western and Eastern Ghats, as well as Central Indian hills. They grow up to a metre in length, making them one of the largest squirrel species in India. Observing them is very fascinating, as they hang upside down while feeding, which illustrates the tremendous strength of their hind legs. They breed throughout the year and do not have a particular season, but very little is known about their breeding ecology. Females birth to 1 to 3 pups, with a gestation period between 28-35 days; young pups are nursed in dreys until they grow and become independent.
Diverse habitats with mature trees are very important for the Malabar Giant Squirrel not only for feeding, but also for nesting and movement; habitat modification through monoculture plantations and selective felling of mature trees for timber leads to the decline in habitat quality. It is also very important to conserve riparian and micro-habitats which facilitate the movement and distribution of these squirrels. Forest fires, and hunting by humans are other major threats to this species.
This film was recorded at Someshwara Wildlife Sanctuary. Waking up at Someshwara Herpeto Camp amidst the lush forest with tall trees and huge canopies was a wonderful feeling. Early morning hours are when the forest comes alive with diurnal species, and on one such morning, I had a memorable encounter with Malabar Giant Squirrels, which are found in large numbers near the camp. This encounter slowly culminated into long hours of observing and filming these fascinating creatures. Watching these agile squirrels move effortlessly through the canopy is something that I am glad to have witnessed.