One of the most fascinating animals that lives in the MacRitchie forest is the Flying Lemur (Cynocephalus variegates). It is not a lemur that one sees everywhere in Madagascar. And it does not actually flies. It glides from tree to tree with the help of a membrane that extends from the neck region to the fore feet and the hind feet and thence to the tip of the tail (above, image by YC Wee). Thus its alternate name, Malayan Colugo, that is currently gaining popularity.
This is a nocturnal animal. Comes dusk, it becomes active, moving upwards from where it is clinging. It then licks its fur to keep it in good condition and sets about looking for young leaves and tree sap to feed on. In the process it glides from one tree to another, always moving higher up before gliding down to the next tree. It seldom descends to the ground. When it needs a drink, it licks the water droplets that are found on leaves. But most of its water needs come from the food it consumes.
The female carries her young close to her body (above, image by Chan Yoke Meng), even gliding with the latter clinging tightly to her belly.
During the day it clings on to a branch or a tree trunk, or even hangs down from a branch (below, images by Johnny Wee). Its grey-brown fur with blotches of lighter colour provides excellent camouflage that blends well with the bark of the tree.
The MacRitchie forest is one of the few habitats that the Flying Lemur thrives in. The other is the Bukit Timah forest and some patches found in the Central Catchment Nature Reserve. Its preference for primary forests is because of tree biodiversity as well as the presence of tall trees. After all, it is a generalist, feeding on the young leaves of a wide array of tree species. And only mature forests provide such a condition.
The presence of the Flying Lemur in the MacRitchie forest is one of many reasons why we should not mess up the habitat.
[Credit: YC Wee (gliding), Chan Yoke Meng (with young), Johnny Wee (clinging to tree)]
Lim, Norman, 2007. Colugo: The flying lemur of South-east Asia. Draco Publishing & Distribution Pte Ltd and National University of Singapore. 80 pp.