Yellow-bellied Glider (Petaurus australis) is one
of the largest gliding possums in Australia, the
most loudly vocal, the most capable glider, and
yet, it is the least known and least studied
member of its family.
sized animal has a head-body length of 30cm with a
tail approximately 45cm long. The species is
characterised by a short head with a pointed
muzzle and long oval ears. The head and body are
grey-brown with a darker stripe down the centre of
the back. The belly varies from creamy-with to
orange. The gliding membrane on the flanks extends
from wrist to ankle. It has a long and bushy tail,
which is grey at the base and black on the tip.
Hands and feet are black.
The species is
restricted to tall, mature Eucalypt forests in
temperate to subtropical regions of eastern
Australia which receive high rainfall. The
isolated northern Queensland population lives only
in dense forests at high altitudes. The range of
the species was recently extended into South
Australia where an individual was captured in the
Caroline Forest Reserve in April 1981. Prior to
this capture, it was not thought to occur in South
As the species
is poorly studied there is some confusion over
what the species actually lives on. It seems the
species lives primarily on tree exudates and, to a
lesser extent, insects, and nectar and pollen when
available. The animal is fairly restricted in the
species of trees on which it feeds, with the main
species being the Rough-Barked Manna Gum
(Eucalyptus viminalis) in the south and Red
Mahogany in the north.
To extract the sap from the tree, the animal chews
at the bark until it exposes the cambuim. This
gnawing tends to form a definite V shape on the
tree trunk. As the sap exudes from the cambuim it
runs down the V channel and collects in the notch
at the base where it can be readily licked up.
Trees can become quite scarred over a number of
years as ‘sweet’ trees are continually fed upon.
Utilisation of eucalypt sap, from a limited range
of tree species and individuals, as a major
dietary item may partially explain the rarity,
irregular distribution, and nomadism or extensive
home range of the species.
A high sap and
low insect diet in the species would imply a
restricted protein intake, and if correct, would
also explain the species’ observed low fecundity.
Females have two nipples in the pouch which is
incompletely divided into two compartments by a
longitudinal septum. The single young is born
usually between November and May and is carried in
the pouch for about 100 days. It is left in the
nest for a further 60 days, after which it fends
This species has a number of complex vocalisations
which it uses in different activities. Nocturnal
calling patterns are apparently most influenced by
the weather conditions on the night. Various
activities appear to be associated with calling
rate and these include the amount of gliding.
Apart form providing contact and location
information, the calls probably advertise the
callers’ sex, age and social status.
Status in South
previously the species was first recorded for this
state in 1981. This capture was made after a
limited trapping exercise by Barry Grigg of the
Woods and Forests Department in the South-East who
had been suspicious of tree damage in a block of
native scrub in the Caroline Forest Reserve for a
number of years.
The previous, most westerly report of the species
was a locality known as ‘Post and Rail’ in the
Glenelg National Park, Victoria.
This area in which the new record was trapped is
an area of reserved natural forest of 188
hectares, dominated by Manna Gum (E. viminalis),
Snow Gum (E. pauciflora) and Black Wattle (Acacia
melanoxylon) with a bracken and grass understorey.
The area is surrounded on all sides by introduced
pine plantations and is 1.5km from the nearest
block of natural vegetation.
Since the initial capture, several more animals
have been observed while spotlighting and numerous
vocalisations have been heard in the block.
Scattered trees with V notches trunks have also
been located in several other localities in the
South-East, so with some intensive searching the
range may be extended even further into South
Yellow-bellied Glider in
data is available on this species in captivity. No
available information on breeding, gestation or
the development of young.
It is an active, arboreal, nocturnal animal which
is capable of gliding up to 115 metres, so it
should be housed in roomy quarters that provide
sufficient space for them to carry out their
nocturnal activities. Any enclosure should be at
least 75m x 4.5m and be quite high as they dislike
descending close to the ground.
Aerial runways (e.g: limbs, branches and vertical
logs) providing a great variety of possible aerial
pathways near the top of the enclosure are
important and necessary components in any
enclosure set up for these active marsupials.
In their nocturnal habitat they nest in hollows
high in tall trees. They occasionally add to the
comfort of the nest by adding leaf and bark nests.
In captivity they should be given hollow logs or
nest boxes located near the top of the enclosure.
They are best kept in pairs and individuals have
been known to survive in captivity for up to 10
Individuals of this species kept at Fleay’s Fauna
Sanctuary in Queensland are fed the following
diet: Bread and milk with melon jam, gum blossom,
honey and slabs of sapwood from preferred Eucalypt
Because of its
low numbers and restricted habitat requirements
the species is considered rare and endangered. The
species faces many problems in future survival
over a wide area because of severe pressures being
put on its’ habitat. The population in North
Queensland is declining due to timber-getting and
clear-felling for agriculture.
The provision of many small sanctuaries in areas
of State forest known to be occupied by the
species, may be the best way to protect the
species throughout its range which would have been
seriously reduced by the large fires in 1983 in