Education through travel…Do Flying lemurs fly and are they lemurs?

Brad Frankel

Do Flying lemurs fly and are they lemurs?

Well, you have asked for ‘anything to do with Flying lemurs’ so here goes….When I travelled around Malaysia I had the privilege of seeing wild flying lemurs or Colugos, the later name being a little more fitting, I’ll explain – Flying lemurs cannot actually fly and they are not actually lemurs so I think for educational and logical reasons we can call them Colugos. One of the best things about travelling is seeing something that you always thought you would never get to see and for me Colugos are simply amazing. I must have told 20 or so complete strangers about this Colugo, whilst taking advantage of the fact that the are super camouflaged I would say ‘hey do you want to see something cool?’ and allow them to get within cm’s before they realised. Geeky I know but they all walked off with a smile.

Do flying lemurs fly and are they lemurs?Colugos (Galeopterus variegatus) Colugos live in the forests of South-East Asia, where it glides (doesn’t fly) from tree to tree. They are strictly arboreal animals and tend to be mostly active at night, the Colugo in the pictures below moved approximately 1m in 6-7hours. One of the fascinating things about Colugos is that they launch themselves from a standing start, into the air with a powerful leap and spreads the membranes that run from its chin to its hands, tail and feet. Whilst watching this non flying non lemur glide from one tree to another I remember thinking how easy it looks and must save a lot of energy. However Byrnes et al., 2001 has found that this glide is surprisingly inefficient as a means of travel. Infact it actually uses more energy than travelling the same distance by running or jumping, so has evolution fallen short for the Colugo? Of course not…. because being able to glide saves time and allows the Colugo to eat, mate and rest. Byrnes’s study is a great one. He attached a 25gram data logging pack and assessed the findings. Evolution has allowed the Colugo to travel much faster through dense jungle and no means of walking or jumping would better the time it takes to glide. Gliding is also vital for the Colugo to evade predators travelling 10-15m per second. Now that is pretty quick.

Threats to ColugosThe greatest threats facing Colugos are consumption by the locals and deforestation of their lowland forest habitats. The species is registered as ‘least concern’ on the IUCNRedlist but these animals need to be seen to be appreciated. You can always see them flying at around 7pm each evening. You can also see these amazing animals in Thailand. Enjoy!


This is our 15th blog that is geared to fit in and around your Extended Diploma or Degrees in Animal Management and or Conservation.

Next week on Education Through Travel we will look at a topic voted for by you.

If you have any questions regarding your animal management assignments, email me on

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