Small Creastures of the Night
English and Literature
Submitted By Octula
Small Creatures of the Night Imagine for a minute, you’re walking through the forest at night on the eastern fronts of Australia. As you’re walking you catch a glimpse of something that seems to be flying overhead. Naturally, your first thought would be, it must be a bird or maybe even a bat. Just as you think this you catch another glimpse, but this time you can see that it doesn’t appear to be flapping any wings, and looks almost square in shape. What is this thing? Where did it come from? Is it going to hurt me? These creatures of the night resemble flying squirrels and are better known as Sugar Gliders. These creatures of the night are also becoming more noticeable in homes across the United States as cute pets. Most people have never heard of a Sugar Glider before and didn’t even know you can keep them as pets. So, what is a Sugar Glider? And how do you take care of one? The scientific name of a Sugar Glider is Petaurus breviceps; which, if broken down into it Latin roots, means Short-headed Rope-Dancer. They get their name Sugar Glider from two different aspects of their life. They love to eat sweet foods, such as: fruits, nectars, and saps, which hint at the first part of their name Sugar. The second part is probably even easier to see and understand, Glider because they’re very agile and acrobatic in the air. The can spread they’re arms and legs to produce a very thin skin membrane called Patagia. Their patagium, when fully spread, allows them to glide upwards of 50 meters which is the equivalent of 150 feet. These creatures of the night are known as nocturnal. For a basic explanation of what it means to be nocturnal is simply to sleep during the day and wake and active at night. The most commonly known nocturnal animals are: raccoons, skunks, opossums, and even owls. These magnificent creatures stick to the night because they use the night as a natural cover from predators. Animals that live their lives at night have larger than normal eyes. This helps them to see better by bring in more light than something with smaller eyes, as well as having ears that can swivel for better hearing. Sugar Glider are primarily dominate in Northern and Eastern Australia, while being introduced to wild of surrounding isles such as New Guinea, and Tasmania. They were officially introduced in Tasmania back in 1835, and it is still listed as the only glider in Tasmania. “They originally hail from Australia, Indonesia and New Guinea, and live in forests” (McLeod).
Even though they are found around the world they haven’t adapted to life in the wild mainly for their strict lifestyle choices. Sugar Gliders are also marsupials, which indicate, they not only give birth to live young but also have a pouch like a kangaroo to carry their young in. Marsupials are also known for their need for love and affection, most babies build this bond with their mothers while they are in the pouch. Bonding is one of the most essential needs of a Sugar Glider because they are colonial creatures and are very affectionate. Gliders have very close knit families or colonies which are dictated normally by one alpha male and range anywhere from 20 to 40 in a colony. One way that the alpha male will mark his territory and his subordinates is to go around and lick on them. The saliva carries a scent as well as the two scent glands that gliders have, one on the head and the other on the chest. “Scent marking is used to mark specific trees in a territory and members of a family group” (What Is a Sugar Glider?). When looking in to getting one as a pet you should be aware that one of two criteria must be met. First, you need to be available to spend time with the animal yourself to perform the necessary bonding required by the animal. If you can’t put in the time you need to invest in getting a second Sugar Glider of the opposite sex. This will allow for you to perform less bonding with the creature, while also compensating him with a companion to bond with. “It can take 1 or 2 months to learn that it can trust you, but you are really in turn earning their trust” (The Gliding Room).
It has been said that if a Sugar Glider does not receive the minimal amount of bonding needed then they will die, presumably due to a broken heart. Finding a mate is especially beneficial for them having long and prosperous lives. If you provide them with a source of companionship they will live free of a lot of stress. You will notice that they’re slightly quieter except maybe during mating season. One of the distinctive features for a male Sugar Glider is that they actually a two shafted penis or they are otherwise known as being bifurcated. When a glider becomes pregnant it will gestate for 16 days, after which the joeys will crawl in to the mothers pouch. Once the joeys reach the pouch they will remain there for at least 60 to 70 days. They tend to grow to the point that they fall out of the pouch and will remain with their eyes closed for a few more weeks, typically 14 days. Sugar Gliders are creatures of habit; they tend to follow a scheduled life. One of the reason they maintain their presence in Australia, is due to their need for Eucalyptus trees. Eucalyptus trees provide shelter for them, they are known for living in holes or dens in the trees. They are known as omnivores meaning they eat both plants and animals. When it’s warm enough and there is plenty of insects around they primarily eat insects, they will even occasionally eat other small animals. When it does however get too cold and insects are hard to find, Sugar Gliders switch up their diet to one comprised of eucalyptus sap, acacia gum, and even honeydew. While out foraging for insects and other food sources gliders must always be cognizant of its surroundings. Gliders come in at a size that will leave them sitting in the palm of your hand. They can range in size; their bodies typically come in at 10 to 14 inches and their tails at 6 to 8 inches for an average combined length of 16 to 22 inches. Their weight can be on average 140 grams for a male and 115 grams for females. This makes them small and easy prey to be picked off. Even though they live mostly in trees, the do come and scurry across the ground so they have a wide variety of predators such as: Kookaburras, Owls, Foxes, and Dingoes. With all these predators out there they not only have to worry about ground predators and aerial predators. With the introduction of Sugar Gliders to the United States, there has been an increase to the knowledge of what kinds of medical conditions people should be aware of. Considering that Sugar Gliders can live up an average of 9 years in the wild and up to 12 years in captivity. One of the biggest issues was addressed earlier, loneliness is a big issue for people not spending time bonding with their pets or finding them a companion. If a Glider is lonely it could develop a state of self-mutilation, there have been several death attributed to Sugar Gliders literally eating themselves to death. Other than that the single biggest health concerns for Sugar Gliders is something called Hind Leg Paralysis. This is primarily constructed do to a low calcium intake which in turn weakens bone mass and creates a scenario that allows for bones to break easily; more often than not the bones that break tend to be the hips. Sometimes the situation will arise, the mother is overweight and giving birth to joeys that have white eyes, or even white spots in their eyes. This is normally allocated to blindness or cataracts. “The ones with white eyes were completely blind. Her vet determined that the white was fat buildup, and she felt it is probably due to too much fat in the mother's diet” (Health).
Gliders can also contract a form of pneumonia which is simply prevented by making sure their diets aren’t lacking the essential vitamins needed; you can typically tell when a glider has pneumonia because they could be shaking, sneezing, have a blue nose, or any combination of the three. Dehydration is another common health risk with Gliders, if you do not keep up on their water they can easily get sick. Glideraid is an effective hydration tool when prompted with a dehydrated glider, if you don’t have Glideraid you can give them water by a dropper or put drops of water on your finger and let them take it from your finger. With having babies in a pouch this presents a risk in all marsupials to develop a yeast infection. Yeast infection can be easily treated by a veterinarian, and are easily noticed by more than normal staining around the pouch. Yeast infection can also be troublesome for baby joeys, if the mother has a yeast infection the joeys may not be able to feed from their mother. Ultimately, these Australian native creatures make magnificent pets. Although, you have to keep in mind they are nocturnal. The ideal family would have to be heavy sleepers or a family who is up for most of the night as they are. The fact that they are small is nice because they won’t take up too much space and most people love the fact that they can take their glider(s) with them anywhere they go. The bonding pouches the have developed to assist in not only making bonding easier but also made travel a lot easier. The truest form of love can be found in sugar gliders, so remember that the do require a lot of your time. If you can’t afford the time at least make sure to get them a companion with whom they can spend their life together. If you do not give them companionship you can simply be condemning them to death; they can simply die from heart ache because they have no one to love, the ultimate love sacrifice. One way to make the stay in your home a more pleasant one would be to monitor the diet of your glider(s). As long as you keep them on nutritional pellets and fruit, you should not have to worry about their smell. Their ferret like smell has been associated to the insects in their diet. They are great friends for the family, it may take time for the bonding to take affect but once the glider(s) feel safe with you and your family they will be the companion of a lifetime. Anyone can love and care for a puppy or kitten, but it takes a person with a big heart to raise and maintain a sugar glider. These creatures are truly an inspiration to us all because when they do fall in love and bond with that special someone that takes care of them or another glider that becomes their mate; their love is eternal. This is how we as humans should live our lives, not worrying about petty differences or greed. We should learn from these creatures how to love one another and once we have finally achieve the great love that these small creatures of the night have maybe then we will finally have world peace.
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