No one thinks of the squirrel as a particularly exotic or interesting animal. Chances are if you look in your backyard right now, you’ll probably find one—they’re very common animals.
But if you venture into the forests of India, you might just find a squirrel who will take your breath away.
Meet the Malabar giant squirrel:
Yes, far from the ordinary squirrels you’ll find climbing trees in your neighborhood, this animal is so vividly colorful it’s hard to even believe it’s real.
Their unique fur can be found in different shades like brown and orange, and maroon and purple colors rarely found in mammals.
You might think that their conspicuous colors would be a drawback by making them stand out to predators, but in fact it actually helps them survive.
“In the shaded understory of a dense forest, the patchy colors and dark hues are a great adaptation to avoiding detection,” squirrel expert John Koprowski told The Dodo.
“But when you see these in the sunlight, they show their ‘true colors’ and beautiful pelage.”
Not only are they among the most colorful squirrels in the world, they’re also some of the largest.
Their head and body can grow from 10 inches to 1 foot 8 inches, with an even longer tail.
While they’re amazing to look at, it might be a challenge to actually find one in the wild. They live in the forests of India, hopping from tree to tree and rarely touching the ground. They’re also known to be quite shy.
Their population is doing well, currently listed on the IUCN Red List as “least concern,” although deforestation could threaten them if unchecked.
But John Koprowski says these squirrels always find a way of surviving.
“They have a wide distribution and seem to tolerate human presence and even some modest level of low-density housing,” he told The Dodo.
“They’re part of a group of squirrels that is pretty ancient. They’re a unique evolutionary group that’s been here a long time, which is a good thing.”