Namdapha flying squirrel spotted in Arunachal Pradesh after 4 decades

Namdapha flying squirrel spotted in Arunachal Pradesh after 4 decades
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In a remarkable discovery that has ignited excitement in the scientific community, the elusive Namdapha flying squirrel (Biswamoyopterus biswasi) has been spotted in the dense forests of Arunachal Pradesh after being vanishing from the radar for four decades.

The last recorded sighting of this nocturnal creature was in 1981, based on a single individual found in the Namdapha Tiger Reserve, spanning 1,985 square kilometers in Arunachal Pradesh’s Changlang district.

Zoologists had long feared that either the flying squirrel might have been mistakenly identified as its close relative, the red giant flying squirrel (Petaurista petaurista), which shares the same ecosystem, or faced extinction. Its recent sighting after an astonishing 42 years makes a cause for celebration.

The rediscovery credits go to a dedicated team from Aaranyak, an Assam-based biodiversity conservation group supported Re:Wild, a global wildlife conservation organisation, and the Small Mammal Specialist Group of the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Species Survival Commission.

Led by Firoz Ahmed, the team spent a painstaking 79 days in 2021 conducting ten separate expeditions across potential habitats. Their relentless efforts finally paid off in April 2022 when they spotted a small, reddish-brown furry creature gliding between trees in the Changlang district.

Describing the moment of discovery, Dr. Ahmed stated, “We sighted a small reddish and grizzled furry mammal high up on a tree. After months of scrutiny of the photographic evidence we gathered, experts are pretty much sure that the animal is the Namdapha flying squirrel.”

Though photographic evidence strongly suggests the rediscovery of the Namdapha flying squirrel, definitive confirmation awaits DNA analysis. The team plans to collect samples and compare them with the 1981 specimen stored at the Zoological Survey of India in Kolkata.

“If the animal sighted during our last expedition is established as the Namdapha flying squirrel, it will be a powerful flagship for conservation for both the tiger reserve and other wildlife species found here,” Dr. Ahmed remarked.

The reappearance of this elusive mammal holds immense significance for conservation efforts in the region. It underlines the importance of continued research and habitat protection for vulnerable species. The knowledge gained from studying the Namdapha flying squirrel can inform conservation strategies for other endangered creatures in the vibrant biodiversity hotspot of Arunachal Pradesh.

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