Note on the Giant Woolly Gliding Squirrel Eupetaurus cinereus (Mammalia: Rodentia: Sciuridae) in northern Pakistan


Jaffar Ud Din 1, Mayoor Khan 2, Mehmood Ghaznavi 3, Khurshid Ali Shah 4 & Muhammad Younus 5


1,5 Snow Leopard Foundation (SLF), Hussain Abad colony, Jutial Cantt, Gilgit, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan

2,4 Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), Hussain Abad Colony, Jutial Cantt, Gilgit, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan

3 Parks and Wildlife Department (PWD), Gilgit-Baltistan (GB), Forest Complex, Jutial, Gilgit, Pakistan

1 (corresponding author), 2, 3, 4, 5



doi: | ZooBank:


Editor: Sanjay Molur, ZOO & WILD, Coimbatore, India. Date of publication: 26 July 2015 (online & print)


Manuscript details: Ms # o4171 | Received 13 October 2014 | Final received 24 March 2015 | Finally accepted 10 July 2015


Citation: Din, J.U., M. Khan, M. Ghaznavi, K.A. Shah & M. Younus (2015). Note on the Giant Woolly Gliding Squirrel Eupetaurus cinereus (Mammalia: Rodentia: Sciuridae) in northern Pakistan. Journal of Threatened Taxa 7(9): 7602–7604;


Copyright: © Din et al. 2015. Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. JoTT allows unrestricted use of this article in any medium, reproduction and distribution by providing adequate credit to the authors and the source of publication.


Funding: None.


Competing interests: The authors declare no competing interests.


Acknowledgements: The support extended by the field staff of the Parks and Wildlife Department and members of the Wildlife Conservation & Social Development Organization Napura-Basin during the rescue and release operation is highly appreciated. Moreover, the authors are indebted to Mr. Doost Ali Nawaz, GIS Expert for developing and improving the map.




The Woolly Gliding Squirrel Eupetaurus cinereus, first described by Thomas (1888), is one of the rarest, least known and most endangered mammals of the world (Zahler & Woods 1997; Zahler 2010) and constitutes one of the four endemic species of mammals occurring in Pakistan (Sheikh & Molur 2004). The species was thought to be extinct until 1994 when Zahler (1996) rediscovered it in Sai Valley of Diamer District in the Hindu Kush mountain range of northern Pakistan. Prior to this rediscovery almost all previous information was restricted to 11 museum specimens, mostly collected from Pakistan (Roberts 1997; Zahler & Woods 1997). A number of unique characteristics and adaptations separate the woolly flying squirrel from other sympatric species, with the Kashmir Gliding Squirrel Eoglaucomys fimbriatus and Red Giant Gliding Squirrel Petaurista petaurista with which it coexists in parts of the remote and rugged terrain of northern Pakistan (Zahler 1996; Zahler & Khan 1999). The core distribution range of E. cinereous in Pakistan as described by Zahler & Wood (1997) falls in Diamer and Gilgit districts of Gilgit-Baltistan, but it is expected that the species may also occur in some parts of Astore, Skardu, Hunza Nagar, Ghizer, and Chitral districts of northern Pakistan, Azad Jammu & Kashmir and may be in China and India (Roberts 1997; Mirza 2003). Genetic analysis of 10 museum specimens of Eupetaurus differentiated two distinct species—to the west (Pakistan-Kashmir-Tibet) and east (Sikkim-Tibet) of the Himalaya (Yu et al. 2004)—though recent evidence supporting the presence of this species outside Pakistan is lacking (Zahler 2010). Recently, the species was reported from the Himalaya directly adjacent to the Hindu Kush including Fairy Meadow Valley in Diamer District (Dinets 2011) and Shounthar Valley in Neelum District, Azad Jammu and Kashmir (Qamar et al. 2012). Local salajit collectors (see below) and community wildlife guards report sightings of the Woolly Gliding Squirrel from the valleys of Diamer and Gilgit districts on occasion, but these lack visual confirmation (WCS 2010-14).

The current report is a result of a rare encounter with the Woolly Gliding Squirrel captured in the heart of Gilgit City along the Gilgit River (Fig. 1). The animal was captured on 07 June 2014 at 21.00hr by a local and handed over to an official of the Gilgit-Baltistan Parks and Wildlife Department. The next day a team of professionals from the Snow Leopard Foundation, Wildlife Conservation Society, and Parks and Wildlife Department identified the squirrel, took measurements, collected a sample for DNA analysis, and weighed it before releasing the animal in its natural habitat in Napura-Basin Valley and Markhor Conservancy, Kargah. The squirrel was fed with pine needles during captivity, considered to be the main diet of the animal based on fecal analyses (Zahler & Khan 2003). The rescued animal was identified as an adult male weighing 1.47kg. Total body length was measured to be 81.3cm with tail measuring 45.7cm (Image 1). These measurements were similar to those reported by Zahler & Woods (1997) and Qamar et al. (2012) (Table 1). Jutial and Kargah valleys are considered potential habitat of the WGS (Zahler 1996; Zahler & Wood 1997) and are about 4 and 6 km from Gilgit Town, respectively. These valleys are in the Hindu Kush mountain range with high cliffs and steep and broken peaks with patches of forest dominated by pine, spruce, fir, juniper, ash and birch on slopes, thus providing both shelter and food for the WGS (WCS & PWD-GB 2013). However, the animal would have had to cross roads and congested human settlements to reach the city if it came from one of the two valleys. It is, however, also possible that the animal was captured by salajit collectors to be sold in the black market. Salajit is a substance considered to have great medicinal value that fetches a high price in local markets, and it is found in the crevices of high mountain cliffs. The WGS is not only reported to reside in the caves where salajit is deposited, but it is also perceived to produce it (Zahler & Karim 1998). It is likely that the animal either escaped or was released by the unknown person due to the enhanced conservation and protection measures undertaken by government and non-government organizations. The animal was safely released in its natural habitat in Markhor Conservancy Kargah (then Wildlife Sanctuary) on 08 June 2014 at 18.00hr. A video of the animal climbing trees and then disappearing in the mountains was also recorded for documentation.









The population of the species in Pakistan is estimated at 1000–3000 individuals (Zahler & Woods 1997). Deforestation, habitat degradation due to overgrazing, and salajit collection (Qamar et al. 2012) are considered to be the main threats to the species (Roberts 1997). Zahler (2010) projected that the population may decline by 20% in five years. However, deforestation has been checked in Gilgit-Baltistan to a considerable level in the recent past due to the community based conservation initiatives spread across 65 valleys and increased surveillance system with more than 100 rangers stationed in the valleys (WCS & PWD-GB 2013). It is difficult to indicate the status of the species since we do not have reliable estimates of the current population or occupancy across its potential habitat. Expansion of the community managed protected area network coupled with increased law enforcement aimed at both hunting and deforestation may help reverse the projected trend. To define the distribution range and evaluate the effect of the ongoing conservation measures, we recommend that systematic site occupancy surveys (Mackenzie et al. 2002) should be conducted across the potential habitat of this elusive species that may be endemic to Pakistan.




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