Prevost's squirrels are tri-colored; the top of the head, back, and tail are jet-black or brownish, the underparts are reddish-brown, and a white line separates the two colors. The tail is usually flat, as the hairs are short.
The size of average adult is 5 to 11 inches (12 to 28 centimeters) with a tail of 3 to 10 inches (7 to 25 centimeters). They weigh about 11 ounces (326 grams).
Prevost's squirrels live on the Malay Peninsula, Sumatra, Borneo, Bangka Island, Rhio Archipelago, Sulawesi and the East Indies. They live in lowland and montane forests, cultivated areas and gardens.
Prevost's squirrels are agile arboreal mammals, which excel at climbing and jumping. Their toes, with their sharp claws, are well adapted for clinging to tree trunks. They can jump across considerable gaps between trees. Tails help these animals balance while running and climbing, and can act as a rudder when they jump. On the ground, tree squirrels move in a sequence of graceful leaps, often pausing to raise their heads and look around.
They trill when upset or excited and have an ear-piercing whistle, which may be used for locating or warning other squirrels. They also use their tail as a flag to communicate social signals.
They eat fruit, nuts, seeds, buds, flowers, insects and bird eggs. When feeding, squirrels squat on their haunches holding the food between their front paws.
At the Smithsonian's National Zoo, the squirrels eat scenic diet, leaf-eater biscuits, vegetables, nuts, greens and crickets.
Breeding occurs throughout the year, peaking between June and August. Females may have up to three litters each year, each with one or two young on average. Squirrels are sexually mature and able to breed at approximately one year old. Gestation lasts about five weeks. Infant squirrels are born naked, toothless and helpless with their eyes closed. By 6 weeks of age, they are fully furred and sufficiently independent to be able to venture out of the burrow.
This species is crepuscular—mainly active at dusk and dawn—and arboreal. At night they rest in hollows in trees or on tree branches in nests built of leaves and twigs. They wrap their tails around them at night for warmth. Unlike ground squirrels, tree squirrels do not hibernate.
The approximate life span for Prevost's squirrels is 15 years in human care.
Prevost's squirrel habitat has been severely reduced over time by the increase in plantations. In parts of the remaining region, they are collected at great rates for the pet trade.
Though they are present in protected areas, additional studies are needed to evaluate the species' role in and impact on the ecosystem, distribution and true population numbers.
- Be a smart consumer. Choose products made with sustainable ingredients, such as Smithsonian certified Bird Friendly coffees, which support farmers striving to limit their impact on wildlife and habitat.
- Choose your pets wisely, and do your research before bringing an animal home. Exotic animals don’t always make great pets. Many require special care and live for a long time. Tropical reptiles and small mammals are often traded internationally and may be victims of the illegal pet trade. Never release animals that have been kept as pets into the wild.
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