By TOSHIYUKI TAKEYA/ Staff Writer
October 25, 2019 at 10:30 JST
Editor's note: This is part of a series of videos offering an up-close perspective on the animal kingdom. A special 360-degree video camera system was set up in zoos and other facilities to show how the animals view their world as they interact.
Also visit our special 360-DEGREE LIVES page (http://t.asahi.com/360lives), where you can watch all the previous videos.
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They're not called the “ninja of the forest” for nothing.
When night falls, the Siberian flying squirrel glides through the air from tree to tree in the forests of Hokkaido.
But when the slightly plump rodent fixes you with its beady stare, it actually melts your heart.
The Sapporo Maruyama Zoo keeps eight Siberian flying squirrels for exhibition.
On the morning of a fall day in late September, the exhibition area seemed utterly silent. On a closer look, there were holes several centimeters in diameter on trees and nest boxes.
But minutes after a bowl with the video camera installed in the center of it was set, three Siberian flying squirrels gathered around it. They curled their tails and holding food with their small forelimbs, they munched on their breakfast.
Zoo visitors erupted into cheers at the sight, saying it was “cute” and “heartwarming.”
According to zoo attendant Natsuo Osawa, 34, the Siberian flying squirrel is a subspecies of the squirrel.
They shoot through the air from the tops of high trees by spreading their flying membrane that stretches between the fore and hind legs.
Siberian flying squirrels are active during the night to keep them safe from predators such as crows and raptors. They hide out in holes excavated by the great spotted woodpecker and other creatures.
On rare occasions, wild Siberian flying squirrels can be seen in forests in Sapporo.
“It's best to come here in the morning or evening to see them because they don’t come out of their nests most of the time during the day,” Osawa said.
Another creature with great stealth is the Japanese dwarf flying squirrel. One way to distinguish between the two is that the Siberian flying squirrel is about 20 centimeters long, while the Japanese dwarf flying squirrel is about 50 cm long.
Some say the Siberian flying squirrel looks like a “flying handkerchief,” while the Japanese giant flying squirrel is more like a “flying cushion.”
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