Trees for benefit of Indian Giant Flying Squirrels
Surrounding Areas of Sitamata Sanctuary
With the reforestation program in the buffer zone, our aim is to restore the surrounding areas of the Sanctuary and mitigate the anthropogenic pressure in the core-areas. The plantation of 50,000 saplings would help improve the habitat.
Sitamata Wildlife Sanctuary lies in the south-eastern part of Rajasthan and forms the western limit of the teak-bamboo mixed forest type. Ecologically, this sanctuary is unique as it forms the limit for the species that have moved from Himalayas, Indo-Malayan and African regions along with some species that have moved from the Western Ghats. An exceptional confluence of vegetation has facilitated an interspersion of habitat which makes this sanctuary distinctive.
With changing land use and developmental activities, biodiversity in the low-lying areas faces genuine threat. Habitat degradation, fragmentation, encroachment, anthropogenic pressure and occasional poaching are major issues of the area. The protected area is home to several threatened and significant flora and fauna such as Ground Orchids, Buchanania lanzan, Indian Giant Flying Squirrels, Four horned Antelope, Grey Junglefowl, Lesser Florican Green Keelback Snake. The indicator species of Sitamata Wildlife Sanctuary is the Indian Giant Flying Squirrel. The reducing population of the Indian Giant Flying Squirrel is partly due to the over-extraction of Mahua seeds, which the villagers depend on as an important source of income. The presence or absence of one or several key species often determines the distribution and abundance of many other species.
The Indian Giant Flying Squirrel is the world's largest squirrel. According to Encyclopedia Britannica, some Indian Giant Flying Squirrels of tropical India and south-eastern Asia weigh 1 to 2.5 kg (2.2 to 5.5 pounds) and have a body length of about 30 to 60 cm (12 to 24 inches) and a tail 35 to 64 cm long. Although these rodents do not fly, they glide up to 450 metres (almost 1,500 feet).
The Indian Giant Flying Squirrel is a mammal that lives in tree cavities and tree canopies. The IUCN in 2008 described its population as "decreasing"; scientists have advocated planting trees to protect the species. Habitat loss and degradation resulting from logging, shifting cultivation, expansion of human settlements and forest fires are considered to be threats for this species. We have therefore initiated this project for planting 50,000 trees in areas adjacent to the Sitamata Wildlife Sanctuary, which has a population of such squirrels.
University of Michigan Museum of Zoology in Animal Diversity web says that the average home range for an adult is 4 hectares and for the female 2.2 hectares; daily range distances average 255 to 640 metres, with longer distances in summer. Their diet consists mainly of, but not limited to, fruits and leaves of ficus trees. They do not eat insects, but besides leaves and fruits, also eat bark, and flowers. Since more light at the edge of a forest results in more leaves, feeding is more common at the edge of a forest.
The flying squirrels are found to be selective in their diet in Sitamata Wildlife Sanctuary consuming 13 plant species and 8 plant parts in their summer diets. Pith, the central part of a stem or twig, rich in water, formed 58.59% of their diet. Mahua trees are the primary source in their feeding. Large owls and arboreal snakes are their most common predators.
1) Madhuca indica (Mahua), Tectona grandis (Teak) and Anogeissus latifolia (Dhao) are significant species for the conservation of Indian Giant Flying Squirrel as Mahua is the primary source of food and huge trees like Teak and Dhao are also important for roosting and nesting sites for several birds. The Indian Giant Flying Squirrel prefers such old trees for roosting.
2) Dendrocalamus strictus (Bamboo) is the principle plant species in this forest landscape and forms the ecological attribute to the forest. They are good nesting and hiding places for various herpeto-faunal species. Communities can benefit too as items and handicrafts made of bamboo can be marketed and can be an alternative source of livelihood.
3) Ziziphus mauritiana (Ber)-The fruits are important for birds and small mammals and fruits are also collected by the villagers.
4) Terminalia tomentosa (Sadad)- provides shelter and twigs are eaten by Indian Giant Flying Squirrel.
Grow-Trees.com is creating rural jobs, in remote areas where jobs are rare, in the nursery, planting and post-planting activity, amongst tribals and women. The 50,000 trees to be planted will create approximately 6,140 workdays of jobs in the nursery and planting activities alone. These trees will provide flowers, fruit, fodder and fuel to rural communities and living creatures, improve water catchment, generate oxygen, reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, fight climate change and benefit the Indian Giant Flying Squirrel, a species decreasing in numbers .