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The Case of the Bashful Giant

Malabar Giant Squirrel, Coorg -

Amongst the largest of his species, this champion athlete of the treetops pulls off gravity-defying leaps of up to 6 meters that’d do a Bob Beamon proud. But you’ll never catch him advertising his prowess. Chances are that you’ll never ever see the Malabar Giant Squirrel, but will often hear him chattering away in the dense canopy above your head in Coorg. This arboreal nut-cracker is so bashful, he’ll rarely come down from his tree kingdom, and it’s quite a task getting an appointment with His Royal Shyness. While it’s already difficult to spot his furry two-toned body hurtling across the leafy roof of the forests, hunting and loss of habitat have conspired to put him on the ‘endangered’ list, and ensured that he’s not likely to become a gregarious party animal too soon. While a well developed sense of self preservation manifests itself as shyness at most times, at others, it peeks out as sheer ingenuity. Consider how he and his partner build several identical nests in a particular area when she’s about to give birth. Just like those Presidential cavalcades of identical limousines, the idea is to keep enough decoys to confuse potential enemies, in his case predatory hawks, eagles and civets. But when he does get spotted, he borrows from the techniques of the guards at Buckingham Palace and freezes into total immobility. You can try all the tricks of the trade, even crack asinine jokes, but he will not be distracted from his statuesque pose till he’s convinced the threat has passed. The best thing to do, however, would be to casually turn back, and allow him to scamper away. For the Malabar Giant Squirrel is an indicator of the health of the forest, and by respecting his right to privacy, we’re acknowledging the larger universe that thrives under the canopy

Photograph: Jayanth Sharma Story: Rajesh Ramaswamy



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