• James E Aarons DVM

Sugar Gliders

Updated: Feb 11


“The foal looks good. Congratulations,” Doc Leighton announced, and gave Nick a reassuring smile.

While she was washing up she asked Nick if it would be ok for him to show her guests his sugar gliders.

"Absolutely!" The fellow replied. "But why are you hesitating to ask?

“Because I’m not entirely sure having these boogers is legal. I didn’t want to put you in a hard place.”

“Oh I have a Queensland Wild Life Demonstrator Licence,” he replied. “It allows me legal possession of the sugar gliders so long as I hold a demonstration on them at places other than my home at least once a month. The hope is to use these presentations to promote wildlife conservation. Follow me.”

He led the way behind the barn where they entered a large caged area. There were six wooden nesting boxes wired to the sides of the cages about five feet from the ground. Each box had an entrance hole1 ½” in diameter, and the tops were hinged so a person could access the inside as needed. The middle of the cage contained medium and small size eucalypt branches to allow the gliders outside perches. Two of the boxes had baby gliders who were now old enough to leave mama’s pouch.

Nick carefully cupped his hands around a joey. Gently lifting it from the nest box, he handed it to Jen. The baby was half as big as the palm of Jen’s hand and covered in beautiful soft fur. She held it briefly but was tenuous because it seemed fragile to her. When she handed it back to him, Nick put it away and pulled out an adult glider

“This is the mama,” he told her

Her body was as big as Jen’s hand. The bushy tail was as long as it's body and covered in long, thick, soft fur. Like the flying squirrel, there was a membrane on each side of the body running from front to back legs allowing the animals the ability to glide. The fur on the back was blue-gray; it was cream colored on the belly. The cute animal had large dark eyes with three stripes on the head, its little round ears constantly twitched back and forth. She had a pouch on her lower belly in which she raised the babies until they were nearly 70 days old.

Jen was thrilled. “What do they eat?”

“Wild gliders love the sweet sap from the eucalypts. They also eat pollen, and insects, mainly moths and beetles, and even small vertebrates. I feed my gliders a diet used at the Taronga Zoo in Sydney. It includes apple, dog kibble, grapes, sweet potato, pear, banana, fly pupae, hard-boiled egg, papaya, honey, and high protein baby cereal.

“They’re gorgeous and endearing!” Jen exclaimed. “Are they available in the states?”

“Not sure Luv. I think so. Follow me. I have some rare specimens to show you.” He ushered the group out of the main cage and walked to a smaller one proudly showing the girls a group of color-mutated gliders. These were pure white gliders with dark eyes.

“Are these albinos?” Jen asked.

“Nope, these are true whites. See the black eyes? Albinos have no pigment whatsoever and have red eyes from the blood vessels in the back of the eye. I don’t like the red eyes of the albinos. However, both albinos and white colored mutations are very scarce in captivity and command high prices if and when they're offered for sale.”

Last blog: Hazmat Suits Next blog: Taronga Zoo

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