Thursday, February 15, 2007

Colugo (Malayan Flying Lemur)

I got to know Norman Lim when I volunteered for his Pangolin survey. He is a nice guy, scholarly and has tremendous passion for animals especially those poorly studied nocturnal creatures. He also has a sharp eye and is always spotting well camouflaged animals others would miss. His Honours Colugo project and recently published book open a window into the Colugo's secretive life.

There are only two species of Flying Lemur in the world. The Colugo (Cynocephalus variegatus) and the Philippine Flying Lemur (Cynocephalus volans). They are of course not related to Lemurs at all but belong to the order Dermoptera. The taxonomy of Flying Lemur has been of much debate. Recently, genetic studies suggest they maybe closely related to humans!

And of course Colugos are one of the few mammals that glide. I was lucky to witness the feat a couple of times and it was quite a sight as the animal spread its patagium and glided effortlessly onto a tree trunk metres away. During the day they’ll usually rest in a tree hole or roost by perching against a tree trunk. It takes a keen observer to spot them.

These individuals were seen at Bukit Timah Nature Reserve and near the Tree Top Walk.

There is an estimated population of about 1500 in our forests. They do not do well in captivity but ironically there is a small population of free ranging Colugos in the Zoo. It seems they can survive well in landscaped and fragmented habitats. Nonetheless, it is crucial for the relevant authorities to conserve its shrinking habitats and protect this native enigmatic animal.

Pictures taken at: A northern offshore island, November 2006; Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, September 2006 and Tree Top Walk, November 2006.


Agoramoorthy, G., C. M. Sha & M. J. Hsu, 2006. ‘Population, diet and conservation of Malayan flying Lemurs in altered and fragmented habitats in Singapore’, Biodiversity and Conservation, vol. 15 (7), pp. 2177-2185.

Francis, C. M., 2001. A Photographic Guide to Mammals of South-east Asia, New Holland Publishers Ltd, United Kingdom.

Lim, N., 2007. Colugo. The Flying Lemur of South-east Asia, Draco Publishing & Distribution Pte Ltd and National University of Singapore, Singapore.

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