Indian Giant Squirrel

Malabar giant squirrel

Ratufa indica
Population size
Life Span
20 yrs
32 km/h
1.5-2 kg
25-45 cm

Indian giant squirrel is one of the most cute and lovable squirrels around the globe. This animal exhibits 2 - 3 types of color pattern with shades of black, brown and deep red. The body of the rodent varies from deep red to brown with white patches on belly as well as dirty white or cream colored under-parts and forelimbs. The animal has pink lips and nose. Long hairs appear behind the mouth and nose of the rodent. The eyes are colored in bright dark or light brown. The powerful and long tail is light brown with creamy white tip. Individuals of both sexes look alike, although females have three sets of mammae.


The Indian giant squirrel is a native Indian species, where this animal occurs in Satpura hill range of Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra. The preferred habitat of this rodent is deciduous and most evergreen forests, found throughout peninsular India.

Indian Giant Squirrel habitat map



Habits and Lifestyle

These rodents are generally solitary animals, occasionally living in pairs during the mating season. These cautious and shy creatures are usually active early in the morning and in the evening. During the midday, they rest in tree holes or large, globe-shaped nests, constructed out of twigs and leaves and typically located in trees. Each squirrel has 2 - 5 nests, found within a small territory. One of these nests is made exclusively for producing and nursing the young, while others are used as sleeping sites. The Indian giant squirrels also very agile animals, able to take leaps of up to 6 meters when travelling among trees.

Diet and Nutrition

As omnivorous animals, these squirrels consume a wide variety of food, including fruits, flowers, nuts, bark, eggs of birds, and insects.

Mating Habits

28-35 days
1-3 kittens
pup, kit, kitten

The reproductive habits and behavior of this species is insufficiently explored, although males are known to compete for their mating rights. Occasionally, pairs remain together for long periods of time. Indian giant squirrels breed either year-round or several times per year. Gestation period is likely to last 28 - 35 days, yielding 1 - 2, sometimes 3 young. The young are nursed and grown in nests, located on tree branches. Their nests are as large as these of eagles. After a while, young squirrels start coming out of the nest and soon they become independent.


Population threats

Factors such as selective logging, dam construction, monoculture plantation and clear felling have led to degradation of this species' natural habitat. Furthermore, the Indian giant squirrels are hunted for food throughout their habitat, particularly in the Eastern Ghats, largely due to urban development.

Population number

According to IUCN, the Indian giant squirrel is common and widespread throughout its range but no overall population estimate is available. However, according to the Pune Mirror resource, the number of squirrels in Maharashtra was estimated to be around 1,800-1,900 individuals. Overall, Indian giant squirrels are classified as Least Concern (LC), but their numbers are decreasing today.

Ecological niche

Due to feeding upon a wide variety of plants, these rodents act as key seed dispersers of these species, thus benefiting the local ecosystem.

Cool Facts

  • The long tail helps this rodent keep balance when moving around.
  • A male Indian giant squirrel is called a 'buck', a female is referred to as a 'doe', whereas offspring is called a 'pup, kit or kitten'. A group of these rodents is known as a 'dray or scurry'.
  • When threatened, these animals typically remain motionless. When it happens on the ground, they usually flee to a tree and climb up to it for shelter. When threatened in a tree, they embrace the tree trunk, clinging to the bark with their body.
  • Squirrels are highly approachable and very friendly creatures. Unlike most wild animals, they can be hand-fed.
  • When threatened, these smart rodents confuse a predator by running in various directions.
  • The primary forms of communication are vocalizations and scent. In addition, they are known to give signals with their tails, usually twitching them in order to warn conspecifics of a threat.

More Fascinating Animals to Learn About