Imagine a giant flying possum or glider, one that can glide for 100 metres or more, and use its extraordinarily long tail as a rudder to change direction mid-glide. The Greater Glider has huge fluffy ears, and large eyes. It uses scent marking to communicate, and has very distinct and regular pathways through the trees as it moves silently about its eucalypt forest home.
Like the koala, the Greater Glider’s diet is solely the tender young tips of eucalypt leaves and has a very long caecum, or appendix-like structure, filled with bacteria to help digest the leaves. The Greater Glider weighs about the same as a cat.
This special animal has been recorded in Hanging Rock Reserve, and occurs in a patchy distribution across the Wombat Forest to the west, and the Macedon Ranges to the east. They have a home range of 2–3 hectares.
Thanks to this relatively small home range, the Hanging Rock Reserve has two family groups of gliders. One group is near the racecourse facility, and the other south-west of the Rock. Greater Gliders come in many colour forms, ranging from pure snow white, to grey-brown to almost black, and the Hanging Rock glider families each have different colours.
Greater Gliders are regarded as regionally significant, as the Wombat Forest, Hanging Rock and Macedon population is the most western distribution of this animal in Australia. Most Greater Gliders occur in the tall forests east of Melbourne, and indeed ‘our’ gliders may even be genetically distinct as the population has been cut off by the open gaps around Broadford for hundreds of years. This is speculative, as no genetic studies have been done as yet.
The gliders rely completely on the abundance of large, hollow-bearing trees at the Hanging Rock Reserve, having several dens in various hollows that they use at different times of year and in different weather conditions.
Photo: Jonathan Ayres