No One Knows These Adorable 'Flying Teddy Bears' Even Exist
They're super fluffy — and can fly up to 300 feet 😍
They might look like fluffy teddy bears, but these little guys can soar an impressive 300 feet in the air from tree to tree in their forest homes.
Meet the greater glider, an undoubtedly adorable marsupial who lives in the eucalyptus forests of eastern Australia. These nocturnal creatures are the largest flying possum out there — but most people don’t even know they exist.
Which is turning out to be bad news.
The gliders commonly live in old, hollowed-out trees, which have recently been getting cut down to make room for development projects or logging operations. The vegetation they rely on for food is also wiped out during development.
“Greater gliders are dependent on tree hollows, which only exist in eucalypts of 100 years or older,” Matt Cecil, projects manager for Wildlife Preservation Society of Queensland, told The Dodo. “Where bushland has been cleared for agriculture, timber production, urban sprawl or linear infrastructure, the availability of tree hollows is much reduced.”
Fewer trees means more trouble for the species, which has already seen an 80-percent population drop in recent years. For Cecil, who is part of a coalition called the Queensland Glider Network, which specifically works to help glider species, the largest struggle has been simply getting people to recognize that these animals exist and need help.
“This is such a magnificent animal that most of the Australian public wouldn’t even know existed, and wouldn’t know what it was if it glided into their face,” Cecil said. “That is the sad part. It’s hard to fight to protect animals that the greater population doesn’t even know about.”
That’s why the organization spends ample time engaging with local communities to educate them of the plights gliders and other species face at the hands of development — which in turn can help put pressure on lawmakers to provide legal protections for the animals.
The glider network is also working on the ground to test whether the animals will use man-made nest boxes as an alternative to the cavernous trees they usually choose to nest in — but the most crucial part is stamping out the issue at its source.
Luckily, progress is slowly on its way. Most recently, an industrial logging company named VicForests has been banned from operating in a major glider hot spot in Victoria until a full population assessment can be completed.
“The habitat loss issues are deeply tied into industry, transport and housing developments — something only the Australian federal and state governments can address,” Cecil added. “However, they are worth the fight. We hope to use the greater glider as a ‘marquee’ species; if we can use the species to protect habitat, then we have also protected habitat for a range of other native species.”