A Sugar Glider in Death

melanieylang

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Content warning: photos show a very beautiful, but dead, native animal. It is certainly not my intention to offend anyone viewing this post.

The only times I have seen a sugar glider in the wild are when they've been, sadly, dead. The one good thing to come from this is knowing they are here in my yard. When I found this perfect specimen, it was too beautiful to ignore, so I decided to make some portraits of it, snuggled in a vintage fox fur stole (yes, a bit "lion and the lamb", I realise).

Sugar gliders are tiny marsupials (suckle and carry their young in a pouch), held easily in my hand, with the softest, cuddliest fur imaginable, and darling paw pads with fingerprints and opposable thumbs. I couldn't tell if this was male or female, adult or juvenile, and I couldn't detect a pouch - however, it was stiff and unyielding to my careful attempts to model it.

As I spent a few hours working with it, I felt a sense of doing something important and meaningful. I hope that you will see the beauty in these images, and remember that in life there is also death.


Firstly, an unedited photo taken outside on the paving to show form (note the folds of fur along the extra skin between front and hind legs, providing a sail when gliding):

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And now, the edited "death portrait" photos:

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mumu

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Wow, that was quite beautiful. So where in the world do you live where you can find a sugar glider in your backyard?? They're sometimes sold as pets here in Canada and my daughter would love to have one, or rather she loves the idea of having one. But they're nocturnal I think, and they only really become lively in the evening, right?
 

melanieylang

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Right. I have seen plenty of pet ones outside Australia on instagram, but here in Australia, however, you're only allowed to keep them - and then, only in some states - with a wildlife licence. They're native to much of northern and eastern Australia.

I would urge you to dampen your kid's dream of owning one, pronto! From a quick internet search, they're not at all suitable as pets without specialist care: they need the company of at least one other of their (expensive) species, are noisily nocturnal, will defecate on everything, be smelly, and will in time mess with the idea that they're a cute pet. A dead one found in the garden is as idyllic and trouble-free as it gets! They are wild animals, meant to live without human interference.

This was a good read (and honestly, I knew nothing about this before now - most Aussies don't think much about having pet wildlife): https://www.wild4life.org.au/sugar-gliders.html

Edit: I am not 100% opposed to keeping our native wildlife as pets - as a child I was exposed to various pet native animals, and even had a licence to keep marsupial spinnifex hopping mice. In hindsight, I wasn't a good custodian, and I don't think my "pets" had fulfilling lives in a glass box lined with sand and dried grasses.

There is a case for such animals being kept as pets for awareness-raising and species preservation, but also arguments that this is not ultimately useful if not bred to be truly, releaseably wild (but bred to make better pets, as is the human tendency). It's a conundrum.
 
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Richard
Lovely set of photos and care Melanie.
They're gorgeous.
Never seen one in the wild.

Interesting reading (your link) , and sad.
They would certainly pong. Wonder if they spray on you like brushtails?

Yes it'd be nice to know they're about.
 

melanieylang

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Lovely set of photos and care Melanie.
They're gorgeous.
Never seen one in the wild.

Interesting reading (your link) , and sad.
They would certainly pong. Wonder if they spray on you like brushtails?

Yes it'd be nice to know they're about.
Thanks Richard. I understand that they have been introduced to Tasmania (so, not endemic). We didn't see them in South Australia, where I previously lived.

I read they have scent markers on their head, so perhaps they're not so free with the spray-on pong!

This was also an enlightening read about keeping our native wildlife as pets: https://cosmosmagazine.com/nature/native-animals-as-pets/
 

pdk42

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I knew nothing of these creatures before this post, so thanks for enlightening me. I'd never have even thought of keeping them as pets though - in general I think the whole idea of wild animals as pets is wrong on many, many levels. Their gliding habit is very much like that of flying squirrels and is a perfect example of convergent evolution.
 

mumu

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Right. I have seen plenty of pet ones outside Australia on instagram, but here in Australia, however, you're only allowed to keep them - and then, only in some states - with a wildlife licence. They're native to much of northern and eastern Australia.

I would urge you to dampen your kid's dream of owning one, pronto!
No worries there. We disabused her of that notion immediately. In fact, the only one we've seen in person was at an awareness-raising presentation by a local animal rescue shelter which had various exotic pets. Like you, they also pointed out how the sugar gliders are noisily nocturnal and are not a good pet.
 

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