Curious Giant Squirrels

by | Jul 31, 2012 | Malaysia

The words ‘giant’ and ‘squirrel’ describing the same creature seem somewhat unlikely, but for those who have visited the rainforests of Asia for any length of time will likely have crossed paths with one of these delightful rodents. They really are giants, as far as squirrels go anyway.

Four species of Giant Squirrel (genus Ratufa) are found from India to Indonesia, and even within a single species, markings and colouration can vary widely between individuals. The largest of the group is the Black Giant Squirrel (Ratufa bicolor), with a head-body length of up to 58cm, tail up to 60cm long, adding up to a spectacular 1.2 metres overall!

Inhabiting tall primary forests, giant squirrels are shy and usually stay high up in the canopy. Their diet mainly consists of fruits, seeds and young leaves, but they will occasionally tuck into the odd insect or birds egg. Their calls are unusual – an explosion of bubbly staccato notes often followed by some excited grunts and sneezes.

Over several weeks of recording in Borneo, I noticed that the common Cream-coloured Giant Squirrels Ratufa affinis were particularly curious about my audio equipment. I would often leave my microphones for several hours hidden deep in the forest to record. On a number of occasions, after playing back the captured audio files, I could hear something scratching and scurrying around near the kit. Each time the distinctive call would give it away!

Giant Squirrels can be heard on the nature soundscape album “Rhythm of Kubah” which is available as an mp3 or FLAC download.

Black Giant Squirrel (Ratufa bicolor), Kaeng Krachan, Thailand

Did I mention they are also very fast and difficult to photograph?!