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Saturday, May 12, 2012

Is it a bird? Is it a squirrel? Adorable photographs show the incredible furry sugar glider from Down Under... that can FLY!

By Daily Mail Reporter

Star jump: The native Australian sugar glider, Mama P, glides through the air in Phoenix, Arizona

It looks like a squirrel but soars through the air like a bird. Meet Australia's cutest export - the incredible furry, flying sugar glider.

The adorable critter – called a sugar glider because of its love for the sweet substance - flies through the air, often flinging itself from tree to tree.

But despite its unique talent, it is in fact a marsupial, just like a kangaroo.

Fly: The exotic pets fling themselves from tree to tree

Cheeky: Tame sugar glider, Mama P, climbs down its owner's back and clings to his finger with its tiny claws

When outstretched, a webbed membrane between its front and back paws acts like a parachute, allowing the fluffy animal to glide hundreds of feet at a time.

Sugar gliders are native to Australia, where Dan Rothenberger runs the AZ Sugar Glider Rescue Centre with wife Tamra.

The couple - in the U.S. for the First Annual Sugar Glider Event, in Arizona - care for stricken sugar gliders at their refuge and attempt to nurse them back to health, before finding them a new home.

Fun: Tamra Rothenburger, co-founder of the AZ Sugar Glider Rescue, with Zoe as she glides through the air

Cuddles: Mama P and Baby P wrestle on owner Derrick Large's hand in Phoenix, Arizona

Hungry: Tamra Rothenburger feeds sugar glider, Zoe, pictured, with a bottle in Phoenix, Arizona

Clever: Experts claims the creatures have the problem-solving abilities of a two-year-old child

The unusual animals have become popular pets around the world causing an illegal black market of wild gliders to form.

The creature has very soft, mink-like fur with a black stripe that runs the full length of its body, down the spine.

The glider also has dramatic black markings on its face, legs and back. Measuring 5-6 inches with a bushy tail of equal length, the adult glider weighs up to six ounces, with the male slightly heavier.

Little: Sugar gliders Logan and Mia are even smaller than a cell phone

Family: The sugar gliders Mama P and Baby P have a snuggle

Wings: Derrick Large watches his sugar glider Mama P glide through the air as Tamra gives Zoe a tasty snack

Claws: Little sugar glider, Baby P, clings to its owner's finger with its tiny claws

And amazingly, scientists have found the exotic animals have the problem-solving skills of a two-year-old child.

Similar to kangaroos, gliders, have a short gestational period, with the baby sugar glider developing further in its mother's pouch until it is ready to face the world.

In the wild, sugar gliders live in groups of 15 to 30 animals high up in the trees.

They are nocturnal, hunting at night for insects and sucking the sweet sap from eucalyptus, acacia and gumtrees, which are common in the Australian bushland.



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