Threats/Control Methods - Regional
Mortality in their natural environment is high in the first 12 months of life, as young gliders are easy to predate before they are fully grown. Habitat destruction and the clearing of mature eucalypts for urban developments and agriculture are reducing Sugar Glider numbers across this region.
Threats/Control Methods - Local
The increasingly limited number of nesting sites and competition for nesting sites with possums and pest birds such Common Mynas (Acridotheres tristis) and Starlings (Sternus vulgaris) (as they can out compete the smaller Sugar Glider) may limit populations in urban areas. The domestic Cat is also a major threat in suburban areas.
The presence of suitable native food species may encourage Sugar Gliders into suburban backyards and urban parkland. Corridors of habitat are essential in enabling Sugar Gliders to move between nature reserves and urban settlements to forage. The protection of remnant vegetation containing dead and mature trees with hollows is important for maintaining Sugar Glider populations. Participating in tree planting or bush regeneration activities with local Landcare groups or with Greening Australia will improve habitat areas into the future. Keeping Cats inside or in a specially designed cat enclosure will help to reduce the risk of predation. Control of species such as the Common Myna is also important in reducing nesting competition, particularly on the urban fringe.
Sugar Glider, Sugar Squirrel, Lesser Flying Squirrel, Short-headed Flying Phalanger, Lesser Flying Phalanger, Lesser Glider
The Sugar Glider is the smallest relative of the possum (Petauridae) family, weighing 140 grams at maturity, with a body measuring between 15-20cm and a tail length of up to 19cm. The Sugar Glider is typically grey with a white chest. A distinguishing black stipe runs from just above the nose down the middle of the back to the tail, which may have a white tip. It has big dark eyes, dark coloured ears and a pink nose. When gliding, the flap of skin reaching from the front paws to the hind paws gives the outstretched Sugar Glider a square shape. The flap of skin extending from the fifth digit of the front paw to the first digit of the hind paw enable this small marsupial to glide between trees up to 50 metres apart (usually in search of food or nesting sites).
Squirrel Gliders (Petaurus norfolcensis) look quite similar, but are around twice the size of the Sugar Glider, with a body length up to around 50cm. The Squirrel Glider's tail is also larger and thicker and is never white tipped. The fur on the entire belly of the Squirrel Glider is white.
The Sugar Glider is found across northern Australia and down through eastern Australia to western Victoria and Tasmania. It is also found in Papua New Guinea.
Country of Origin
Australia and Papua New Guinea
Spotlighting surveys and call identification.
Conservation (Pet/Pest) Status - National
Secure, not listed under the EPBC Act 1999.
Associated vegetation community
This species requires tree hollows for nesting.
Sugar Gliders are arboreal (tree dwelling) marsupials, with young born after a short gestation period and nurtured in the mothers pouch for around 70 days after which the mother will leave the young in the nest for another 30-40 days. At around 110 days old young typically venture out of the nest, following their parents to forage. During favourable seasons, wild females may breed twice. Captive females have been known to produce three litters in a year. Between two and four young are produced per litter.
Gliders are social, typically living in family groups of up to seven adults. Research at the University of Tasmania indicates that father and son may cooperate in caring for young and maintaining family connections. Gliders are nocturnal, foraging during the night and spending the day sleeping in their nest. They are not timid and will aggressively defend a food source from Brushtail Possums (Trichosurus vulpecula) and members from another Ringtail family group, even killing others who enter their territory.
Sugar Gliders eat a range of natural foods depending on the season and food availability, including insects, pollen, nectar, sap from eucalypts and the gum produced by wattles. Gum from the wattle species (Acacia mearnsii) is thought to be an important source of food during autumn and winter.
Feral and domestic Cats (Felis catus ), predatory birds like the Boobook Owl (Ninox novaeseelandiae), Kookaburras (Dacelo novaeguineae) and Goannas (Varanus varius) will all predate this species, especially in their first 12 months.
Sugar gliders have a particular fetish for Christmas Beetles (Anoplognathus abnormis). In one year, a colony of eight gliders can consume in excess of 200kg of beetles. These beetles are a major cause of dieback in eucalypts, making the gliders an important species for maintaining tree health.
References - (reader suitability of references, P=Primary teachers, S=Secondary students, T=Tertiary students and researchers)
Books:Straham, R. 1983. The Australian Museum Complete Book of Australian Mammals. The National Photographic Index of Australian Wildlife. Angus and Robertson Publishers. Sydney. P, S, T
Online Publications:Dickman. 1996. Overview of the impacts of feral cats on Australian native fauna. Australian Nature Conservation Agency (now Environment Australia). Commonwealth Government Printer. Canberra.[online]. Available at:http://www.deh.gov.au/biodiversity/invasive/publications/cat-impacts/domestic-stray.html S, T
Environment Protection Agency/Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service. 2006. Sugar Glider. Queensland Government. [online]. Available at: http://www.epa.qld.gov.au/nature_conservation/wildlife/native_animals/nocturnal_animals/mammals/sugar_glider/ P, S
Klettenheimer, B. 2006. Profile: Sugar Glider. University of Tasmania. [online]. Available at:http://www.zoo.utas.edu.au/tfprofiles/tasanimals/Sugarglider2.htm S, T
Tidemann, C., Roscoe, T. and Mitchell, B. 2006. Mammals of the Lower Sullivans Creek Catchment, Canberra ACT. Prepared for the Life in the Suburbs project using data from the Lower Sullivans Creek Catchment Ecological Survey (LSCCES). Australian National University. Canberra. [online]. Available at: http://www.lifeinthesuburbs.com.au/category.php?id=65 S, T
Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service. 2007. Mammals of Tasmania: Sugar Glider. Tasmania Government. [online]. Available at:http://www.parks.tas.gov.au/wildlife/mammals/sugglid.html P, S
Researcher: Hedda Ranson-Elliott and Naomi Hogan