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The Zoo has a colony of nine feathertail gliders, all males. These boys came from the Columbus Zoo, where they have a very successful breeding program.
They are found in the nocturnal section of the Small Mammal House. They may be asleep in their nest box, but are usually out and about once the lights go off.
Small Mammal House
The feathertail glider is named for its most distinguishing feature, a long, prehensile feather-like tail. There is no other mammal that has a tail quite like this. It helps control the flight of these small gliders as they sail from branch to branch. There are flaps of skin that run from their wrists to their ankles that act like a parachute. The tail helps them grip on to branches when they land, but they also have gripping pads on each toe that allows them to adhere to smooth surfaces. This unusual adaptation lets them walk on glass like a gecko! Their large eyes help them see to navigate at night, when they are most active. Their soft fur is greyish above and lighter below. Their tongue is brush tipped which helps them lap up nectar from flowers and fruit.
Four years in the wild, 6-7 in captivity.
The feathertail glider is active mainly at night. They forage among the treetops, although they have been seen foraging on the ground and in tall grasses. They build round nests out of leaves and grasses where they sleep duing the day. They are found in groups of 20-30, but these are not believed to be stable associations. They glide from tree to tree using flaps of skin as "wings" and have been known to glide for distances of up to 25 meters.
The feathertail gliders typically have two litters between the months of July to January, although they have been known to breed year round. There are typically four pouch young, which is the number of teats that the female has. These little marsupials stay in the pouch for about 9 weeks, which is quite a long time for an animal of this size. In the wild mortality is high, and up to 90% of the young don't reach maturity at one year.
Head and body length 65-80mm and tail 70-80mm.
Feathertail gliders mainly consume nectar and pollen in the wild as well as fruit; insects make up a very small portion of their natural diet. At the Zoo, the base diet for the animals is a special nectar developed by the Columbus Zoo and comprised of baby cereal, eggs, honey and water. For enrichment the animals receive papaya and yam. Feathertail gliders consume more than their body weight (about 13 g) daily in nectar and fruit!!
Eastern and south-eastern Australia.
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