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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Is it a bird? Is it a hamster? Meet the sugar gliders flying around a suburban living room

By Lucy Buckland

Flying high: Kayleigh Price playing with her pet sugar glider Gizmo, Ms Price said the creatures don't so much fly as 'fall with grace'

Soaring through the air these creatures are often mistaken for flying hamsters or bats with tails.

But far from being an oddity, these friendly furry marsupials are in fact a type of possum known as a sugar glider.

In the wild these tiny creatures fling themselves from tree to tree but at the Animal Experience in Cambridge the sugar gliders are usually seen flying around the living room.

Owner Kayleigh Price, who cares for five of the furry marsupials with her parents Mitch and Hazel, said the adorable creatures are popular with visitors to the animal centre.

Ms Price said: 'Next to the big lizards, the sugar gliders are my favourite animals. They are very tame and good natured so they make very good pets.

'They can glide up to 200m and in the wild they would take off from tree tops. They don't so much fly as fall with grace.'

The 18-year-old studied animal management before taking a full-time role looking after her parents giant menagerie which houses more than 120 animals.

The Prices care for blind sugar glider, Stevie Wonder, who recently underwent an operation to fix his cataracts, and energetic Gizmo.

Gliding: Gizmo can fly up to 200m, in the wild he would go from tree to tree but at The Animal Experience he is often seen soaring around the living room

Adorable: Kayleigh Price, who runs Animal Experience, says the sugar gliders are a favourite with visitors

Catch me if you can: Kayleigh Price with Gizmo in her living room, she says the aim of the zoo is to educate people about rare types of animals

The Prices use their zoo to educate people about the various creatures in their care.

Ms price added said: 'A lot of the animals we have people are afraid of. We try to show them what animals are really like if you treat them properly.'

Sugar gliders are nocturnal and native to Australia.

In the wild they exist on a diet of insects and sweet tree sap, however, the Price's gliders eat honey, fruit and baby food.

Where will he land? Gizmo take a soaring glide across Kayleigh Price's living room

Furry friends: Gizmo and Stevie Wonder relax after flying around

Ms Price, who has grown up surrounded by weird and wonderful animals, said: 'When I was at school everyone thought my house full of animals was crazy.

'But then they started asking if they could come round and see the animals.

'All my friends love the sugar gliders and think they are adorable.'

The operation to restore Stevie Wonder's sight was the first of its kind and has so far been successful in one eye.

Kayleigh said: 'We had to get a specialist to do the operation because his eye is so small.

'But it's been successful and he is going to get his other one done soon.'



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