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Meet The National Animal of Sri Lanka, The Grizzled Giant Squirrel

Ah Sri Lanka, the pearl of the Indian Ocean, with its rich blend of cultures, its lush landscapes brimming with a myriad of vibrant flora and fauna, and its warm-hearted people!

This gem of an island hides many fascinating treasures waiting to be discovered, one of which is its national animal, the Grizzled Giant Squirrel (Ratufa macroura). A creature that, with its peculiar charm and distinctive lifestyle, seemingly reflects the serene and splendid diversity of Sri Lanka itself.

Have you ever wondered about the wildlife that might be scampering through the treetops of Sri Lanka’s lush forests? Have you ever imagined a squirrel, not the small, nimble ones you see in your backyard, but a giant one, bounding with grace and agility through the high canopies?

If not, you’re in for a treat! In this journey, we’ll explore the mysterious and magnificent world of the Grizzled Giant Squirrel and delve into why, despite its official title, it has stirred up quite a bit of controversy and discussion in Sri Lanka. So, are you ready to unravel the mysteries of this grizzled arboreal acrobat?

Quick Info About The Grizzled Giant Squirrel

Scientific Name:Ratufa macroura
Average Size:Body: up to 18 inches (45.7 cm), Total length including tail: 25-30 inches (63.5-76.2 cm)
Average Weight:1.5-3 kg (3.3-6.6 lbs)
Average Lifespan:7-8 years in the wild
Geographical Range:Sri Lanka, Southern India
Habitat:Highlands of the Central and Uva Provinces, near Sri Lanka’s tea country; also found in various forests in India
Conservation Status:Near Threatened (IUCN Red List)

Meet The Grizzled Giant Squirrel, National Animal of Sri Lanka

The Grizzled Giant Squirrel is an emblem of uniqueness and rarity, much like the nation it represents. With its body decked in two-toned shades of black and gray, it indeed lives up to its name, presenting a grizzled appearance that distinguishes it from its cousins around the world.

This giant squirrel, a tree-dwelling marvel, isn’t the largest squirrel globally but certainly stands out with its size, bearing a body length of up to 18 inches and an even longer tail, giving it a combined length ranging between 25 and 30 inches. Have you ever seen a squirrel this large scurrying through the trees? It’s quite the sight!

Where does this magnificent creature fit into the grand tapestry of the ecosystem, you might ask? The Grizzled Giant Squirrel primarily resides in the lofty realms of treetops, foraging mostly on fruits, nuts, flowers, and even insects.

Its arboreal lifestyle keeps it relatively safe from ground predators, allowing it to play its role in seed dispersal and aiding in maintaining the ecological balance of its home forests. However, it’s not entirely free from predators. Eagles, and other large birds of prey, find this squirrel to be a suitable meal, keeping its population in check.

Sri Lanka Grizzled Giant SquirrelSource: Wikimedia Commons

Where Does The Grizzled Giant Squirrel Live?

In Sri Lanka, this grizzled wonder finds solace in the highlands of the Central and Uva Provinces, notably near Sri Lanka’s famed tea country, showcasing a penchant for the cool and tranquil environments that mirror the serene landscapes of this island nation.

It’s not just bound to Sri Lanka, though; its range extends to the diverse forests of India, illustrating the animal’s adaptability to different forest ecosystems across varying terrains.

The squirrel prefers the dense canopies of tropical and subtropical forests, where the climate is generally warm and humid, perfect for its tree-dwelling lifestyle. The multitude of trees provides not just nourishment but also a network of pathways, allowing it to bound gracefully, almost dance-like, from branch to branch.

If you plan to visit Sri Lanka and don’t want to miss out on the encounter with the grizzled giant squirrel, talk to a local wildlife guide who will help you locate this unique animal. To easily navigate the country, get a dedicated eSIM for Sri Lanka, which will make your trip more enjoyable.

Why and When Did The Grizzled Giant Squirrel Become The National Animal of Sri Lanka?

The journey of the Grizzled Giant Squirrel to its national emblem status is veiled in mystery, a peculiar case of unknown origins. Its designation as the national animal of Sri Lanka is seemingly undocumented, leaving a trail of intrigue and questions.

While its symbolic significance remains largely speculative due to the scarcity of official documentation, some see this elusive and unique creature as a symbol of the diversity and richness inherent in Sri Lanka’s ecosystems. It could also represent resilience and adaptability, traits evident in its ability to dwell in varied forest environments across Sri Lanka and India.

However, the journey hasn’t been without its share of controversy. Recently, in August 2022, a proposal to delist the Grizzled Giant Squirrel as the National Animal surfaced, sparked by its perceived threat to local agriculture, particularly to Coconut and Cocoa cultivations.

Some agrarian unions and farmers advocated for its replacement with another endemic species, highlighting the squirrel’s disruption to cultivation and emphasizing the challenges in managing the ‘menace’ due to its national animal status.

The Sri Lankan Leopard was suggested as a potential successor, invoking discussions on the symbolic representation of national animals and their pragmatic implications on the environment and economy.

Sri Lanka Grizzled Giant Squirrel Source: Wikimedia Commons

Where is The Grizzled Giant Squirrel Featured in Sri Lanka?

While this grizzled wonder doesn’t grace the nation’s flag or its currency, its existence and designation bring forth a variety of dialogues and reflections on the nation’s relationship with its native fauna. It beckons inquiries into how a nation values and symbolizes its wildlife, embodying the intertwining narratives of ecological balance, agricultural prosperity, and cultural representation.

This lack of symbolic representation in national symbols doesn’t diminish its significance; instead, it invites a deeper exploration and appreciation of the nation’s rich biodiversity and the multifaceted relationships between its people and wildlife

Names of The Grizzled Giant Squirrel

The Grizzled Giant Squirrel is known by a myriad of names, reflecting the diverse languages and cultures it encounters in its habitats. In the local Sinhalese language of Sri Lanka, it is fondly called “Dadulena,” a name that resonates with the local communities who share their land with this enchanting creature.

While its scientific name, Ratufa macroura, gives it a distinct identity in the world of biology, it’s often also referred to as the Sri Lankan Grizzled Giant Squirrel, emphasizing the fact that this species is predominantly found in Sri Lanka.

Is The Grizzled Giant Squirrel Endangered?

The conservation status of the Grizzled Giant Squirrel leans toward vulnerability. Loss of habitat, mainly due to deforestation and human encroachment, is the primary threat this species faces. It highlights a prevailing narrative of a constant struggle for coexistence in a shared environment, where the competition for resources and space intensifies.

Efforts to conserve this unique species are critical, with emphasis on habitat preservation, sustainable agriculture, and community awareness. Innovative strategies involving local communities in conservation initiatives and fostering an appreciation and understanding of the squirrel’s role in the ecosystem are pivotal in ensuring its survival.

Sri Lanka Grizzled Giant Squirrel

Interesting Facts About The Grizzled Giant Squirrel

  1. Elongated Wonder: The Grizzled Giant Squirrel boasts an impressive body length of up to 18 inches, with a tail adding another 25-30 inches, making it a sight to behold as it maneuvers through the treetops.
  2. Treetop Acrobat: To avoid predators, this squirrel exhibits incredible agility, bounding effortlessly through the treetops and showcasing its adaptability and survival instincts.
  3. Ecological Balancer: This squirrel plays a crucial role in forest ecology, aiding in seed dispersal and thus contributing to the proliferation and diversity of plant life in its habitat.
  4. Cultural Symbol: Though shrouded in mystery regarding its designation as a national animal, the Grizzled Giant Squirrel prompts reflections on cultural and ecological values and symbolizes the rich biodiversity of Sri Lanka.
  5. Balancing Act: The squirrel represents the delicate balance between agricultural prosperity and ecological integrity, invoking dialogues on coexistence and sustainable living in the vibrant landscapes of Sri Lanka.

Other Beautiful Animals Native To Sri Lanka

  • Sri Lankan Elephant (Elephas maximus maximus): A majestic and endangered species, deeply intertwined with the nation’s culture and history. It is often considered as another (unofficial) national animal of Sri Lanka.
  • Sri Lankan Leopard (Panthera pardus kotiya): An elusive and endangered big cat, symbolizing the rich biodiversity of the island.
  • Sri Lankan Junglefowl (Gallus lafayettii): The national bird of Sri Lanka, known for its striking appearance and unique behaviors.
  • Purple-faced Langur (Trachypithecus vetulus): An endangered primate, adding vibrancy to Sri Lanka’s wildlife.
  • Sri Lankan Flying Snake (Chrysopelea taprobanica): A fascinating species, showcasing the unique adaptation of gliding.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is the Grizzled Giant Squirrel the only national animal of Sri Lanka?

No, the Grizzled Giant Squirrel is one of the distinguished symbols of Sri Lanka. The nation also recognizes the Sri Lankan Junglefowl as the national bird and the Sri Lankan birdwing as the national butterfly.

Why is there a debate about the Grizzled Giant Squirrel’s status as the national animal?

There are concerns and debates mainly due to the squirrel causing considerable damage to Coconut and Cocoa cultivations in Sri Lanka. There are proposals to replace it with another species that is under threat.

What action is being taken regarding the controversies surrounding the Grizzled Giant Squirrel?

The matter is under discussion with relevant stakeholders, including the Consultative Committee on National Heritages, to address the concerns and proposals about replacing the Grizzled Giant Squirrel as the national animal.

Is there any initiative taken for the conservation of the Grizzled Giant Squirrel?

Yes, conservation efforts are underway with a focus on habitat preservation, sustainable agriculture, and community awareness to protect the Grizzled Giant Squirrel from further vulnerability.

How is the Grizzled Giant Squirrel different from other squirrels found globally?

The Grizzled Giant Squirrel is distinct due to its impressive size, with a body that grows up to 18 inches and a tail adding another 25-30 inches. Its bi-toned shades of black and gray, along with its unique habitat in the highlands of Central and Uva Provinces near Sri Lanka’s tea country, also set it apart from other squirrel species.

Other National Symbols of Sri Lanka

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