While they may appear to have been Photoshopped, these images by photographer Kaushik Vijayan that went viral last week are actually very real.
The bizarre, multicolored animals pictured are Malabar big squirrels, and they are not an April Fool’s joke.
Unlike the squirrels we’re used to seeing in North America, Malabar big squirrels are native to India, as The Dodo reported last year. We’re not accustomed to seeing an animal with fur that is black, brown, orange, maroon, and purple together on an animal.
According to John Koprowski, a squirrel expert and professor at the University of Arizona’s School of Natural Resources and the Environment, “in the shadowed understory of a dense forest, the patchwork colors and dark hues are a great adaptation to avoiding notice.” However, when you see these in the sun, they reveal their “true hues” and lovely pelage (fur).
Malabar gigantic squirrels are twice as big as a normal eastern gray squirrel and measure about 36 inches from head to tail in addition to having distinctive colors. Although you would assume it would be simple to notice them because of their presence, sightings of Malabar gigantic squirrels are really rather uncommon. They live in India’s dense jungles, almost ever leave the trees they call home, and don’t like to be observed.
According to Pizza Ka Yee Chow, a research researcher at Hokkaido University in Japan and an expert in squirrels, “they are fairly bashful.” The best method to observe these enormous squirrels, according to one of my friends who lives in India, is to climb a tree, keep very quiet, and wait for them to leave their [nest].
Given how difficult it is to find these creatures, it is amazing that Vijayan was able to shoot so many beautiful pictures of them, capturing them in all their splendor.
Malabar gigantic squirrels are a great reminder of all the beauty and magic that exist in the environment, even though they may resemble characters from a bright cereal box rather than actual animals.