Glide-by-night pouched lemur

A flying lemur mid-glide.

Vietnam Heritage, July-August 2011 -- If you explore tropical rain forest in Vietnam at night, you may see the giant flying mammal the flying lemur Cynocephalus variegatus. Flying lemurs can glide from one tree to another without falling into or being entangled in vines or bushes. This primate is the only genus of the family inhabiting the tropical rainforests of Vietnam.
The flying lemur has a completely different ecology, diet and behaviour. They live in trees and almost never touch the ground. They have sharp claws to hold on firmly to the bark when searching for food. Whenever wanting to move from one tree to another, they spread their skin membranes like a kite and glide. This lemur species’ flying ability is mostly from a higher to a lower position, so after each glide it has to climb. It can land perfectly accurately in the dark. Moreover, when gliding it makes almost no sound and this makes it very difficult for its predators and enemies to recognise.
This species is currently in the Vietnam Red Book because it remains in just small numbers in some conservation areas or National Parks.
This lemur has a large head, short, rounded or obtuse-angled ears and large, red-brown or hazel eyes. The skin membrane for gliding reaches from the head to the tip of the tail. The forelimbs and hindlimbs are almost equal in length, with five fingers. The toes are linked by the skin membrane, right to the claws.
The flying lemur eats forest tree fruits.
Pregnancy is about eight weeks; one offspring at a time. The mother is pregnant again before the offspring weans.
As with the kangaroo, the weak, new-born baby is raised primarily in a pouch. In the flying lemur’s case the pouch is formed by the tail skin membrane. The pouch is soft and warm; the young can live there until they are independent. This species can be considered the only ‘pouch’ animal in Vietnam.
The flying lemur lives in high mountain forests and lowlands. It nests in tree hollows at a height of 20 m to 50 m.


By Phung My Trung; pictures by Norman Lim
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