This large glider is characterised by a very long densely furred mostly black tail. For this reason they were sometimes referred to as ‘Fluffy Gliders’. The belly fur is white to yellow/orange; colour develops with age. A lightly furred patagium (skin flap) connects the fore and hind-limbs and is used for gliding. The remaining body fur is grey/black. Body weight is 470 – 725g (595) for males and 435 – 660 (520g) for females (Goldingay, 2008). Sexes are similar in appearance, except males develop a visible scent gland on the top of their head. They are a vocal species with a loud and distinct call.
Habitat and Distribution
Yellow-bellied Gliders are found along the Eastern coast of Australia, in Victoria extending south towards the South Australian Border. They are patchily distributed in North Queensland, with the northern most population separate genetically and forming an as yet un named sub species (Department of Environment and Resource Management, 2011). Found in mature Eucalypt Forests (Flannery, 1994), they are dependant in part on tree hollows, and a complex habitat mosaic (Lindenmayer, 2002, Kavanagh, 1987).
Proximate threats to the species include habitat loss and fragmentation, also logging (NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, 2003). The effect of climate change is unknown but is likely to have a negative impact (Lindenmayer, 2002).A Recovery Plan was recently ratified for the wet tropics population (Department of Environment and Resource Management, 2011). The major threats to this population are altered fire regime and clearing and fragmentation of habitat.
Distinctive V shaped incisions are made in tree trunks by this species with their chisel-like incisors, in order to tap into the trees vascular system and obtain the sugar rich sap. They also feed on nectar, pollen and invertebrates (Burgman and Lindenmayer, 1998, Goldingay, 2008)
Breeding and Lifecycle
They live in a family group consisting of a breeding male, one or more adult females and their offspring. Young are born July – Sept, but may also breed outside this season (Goldingay, 2008).
The Yellow –bellied Glider has been identified as an ideal indicator species for management of forest – dependent fauna along the Eastern coast of Australia (NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, 2003), as it appears to be particularly susceptible to habitat fragmentation (Lindenmayer, 2002). In zoos this beautiful species has great potential as an ambassador for wild populations, to raise public awareness of issues such as habitat degradation and fragmentation. They tend to become very tame in captivity, and are extremely charismatic, which additionally suits them to this role.
BURGMAN, M. A. & LINDENMAYER, D. B. 1998. Conservation Biology for the Australian Environment, NSW, Surrey Beatty and Sons Pty Ltd.
DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENT AND RESOURCE MANAGEMENT 2011. National recovery plan for the yellow-bellied glider (Wet Tropics) Petaurus australis unnamed subspecies. Report to Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities. Canberra: Department of Environment and Resource Management, Brisbane.
FLANNERY, T. 1994. Possums of the World., Chatswood, GEO Productions Pty Ltd.
GOLDINGAY, R. L. 2008. Yellow-bellied Glider Petaurus australis. In: VAN DYCK, S. & STRAHAN, R. (eds.) The Mammals of Australia. Third ed. Chatswood: Angus and Roberston.
KAVANAGH, R. 1987. Forest Phenology and Its Effect on Foraging Behavior and Selection of Habitat by the Yellow-Bellied Glider, Petaurus-Australis Shaw. Wildlife Research, 14, 371-384.
LINDENMAYER, D. 2002. Gliders of Australia, A Natural History, Sydney, UNSW Press.
NSW NATIONAL PARKS AND WILDLIFE SERVICE 2003. Recovery Plan for the Yellow-bellied Glider (Petaurus australis). . Hurstville.: NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service.