Friday, March 18, 2011
Species of the Day: Sugar Glider
Scientific Name: Petaurus breviceps
Size: Adult males weigh from 100 to 160 grams; adult females between 80 to 130 grams. Body length ranges from 325 mm to 420 mm including the tail
Origin: Papua-New Guinea, Tasmania, Indonesia and the east coast of Australia
Average Life-Span: Sugar Gliders live an average of only 5 to 7 years in the wild, but captive-bred animals can live 10 to 15 years
Temperament: Intelligent, playful and social
Sugar Gliders are a type of small, arboreal marsupial. They inhabit the tree tops and open areas in tropical or coastal forests and drier, inland forests. They possess a membrane of skin which stretches from their front legs to their back legs that they use to glide from tree to tree. Some have been seen gliding distances as long as 100 feet! Sugar gliders are social animals and live in small colonies of up to 10 individuals per hectare (1,000 square meters). Because they are nocturnal they sleep in their nests during the day and then come out at night to forage for food and interact with other sugar gliders.
Caging requirements for sugar gliders should really emphasize height more than floor space as sugar gliders love to climb. Large wire cages made for finches work very well for this as it allows you to place different types of perches, swings and hanging toys for them to climb and play on. Special sleeping/bonding pouches made for sugar gliders are required for a comfy place for your nocturnal pets to sleep and hide in. A water bottle that attaches to the side of the cage is a must! Sugar gliders are extremely susceptible to dehydration and water MUST be available AT ALL TIMES! Two food dishes my be used; one for fruit and the other for dry food. As for the bottom of the cage newspaper or aspen shaving are the best choices. Never use cedar shavings as the oils can harm your pet. Sugar gliders enjoy temperatures between 75 and 80 degrees F, so keep the cage in a warm area without drafts, and clean it out once a week.
Sugar gliders are natural omnivores and will eat fruit, nectar such as Leadbeater's mixture, small insects, commercial pelleted diets for sugar gliders and some vegetables. Their diets should be made up of about 25% protein and 75% fruit. Fresh fruits such as apples, pears, peaches, cantaloupe and melon. DO NOT give sugar gliders bananas or any citrus fruits. About three teaspoons of a nectar mix such as Gliderade or Leadbeater's mix should be given once or twice a week. Sugar gliders are commonly affected by calcium deficiency, so a calcium supplement such as Rep-Cal should be sprinkled over their fruit every day. Sugar Gliders love insects when they can get them, and crickets and meal worms make a great treat!
Sugar gliders will bond to their humans just as well as they will to other sugar gliders in the wild. I recommend getting two if you do not have at least a couple of hours a day to spend with your pet. The best way for your pet to bond with you is to keep it in a shirt pocket or a special bonding pouch during the day time, that way it can sleep safe and warm and get used to your scent. If you are going to be carrying your sugar glider for an extended period of time, be sure to keep a piece of apple or a grape in with it to keep it from dehydrating. Offering treats from your hand is also a great way to speed up the bonding process and make your sugar glider into an active and affectionate pet.