Habitat use by Travancore flying squirrels in a mixed-use landscape in the Western Ghats
Nature Conservation Foundation
Populations of several species are isolated from each other due to a matrix of production landscapes and developmental activities in the Western Ghats. Specific requirements of species (tree contiguity for gliding) might predict their responses to habitat alteration. We are documenting habitat use by two flying squirrel species in a complex landscape to predict the role of habitat heterogeneity and canopy connectivity in determining flying squirrel occurrence.
Flying squirrel presence across the landscape is determined by spotlighting transects. Nests of both species are located by stag-watching potential tree hollows at dusk. One male adult Travancore flying squirrel is fitted with a VHF radio-collar, and movement and home range are calculated from active and inactive fixes obtained at specific intervals. Vegetation is characterized using Point-Centered Quadrats. QGIS, Animov and adehabitat in R are used for analysis.
The Travancore flying squirrel has so far only been sighted in plantations and orchards close to human settlements. The Indian giant flying squirrel occurs in both plantations and remnant forest patches. The radio-collared flying squirrel, released in an evergreen forest patch, has a home range of 6.05ha (Minimum Convex Polygon method), but is restricted to the evergreen patch. This individual uses multiple nests, and over 3 months it used at least 6 different hollows.
Knowledge of how sympatric species respond to the same pressure can result in more targeted management. Different gliding species, with their unique modes of locomotion, form unique cases. Studies have shown that the two flying squirrel species in the Western Ghats respond differently to fragmentation, and we present the specific movement patterns of the Travancore flying squirrel. We document the movement ecology of this cryptic species for the first time.