Ground Cuscus, Phalanger gymnotis

The ground cuscus (Phalanger gymnotis) is a species of marsupial that is classified within the Phalangeridae family. The species is native to the Aru Islands and New Guinea and can be found at elevations between 1,640 feet and 4,921 feet. It prefers a habitat within scrublands and forests. This species reaches an average body length of 17.3 inches, with a tail length of 12.9 inches and a weight between 5.5 and 6.6 pounds. However, the size of each individual can vary depending upon the area of its range. Its fur is typically grey on its upper side and whitish on its underbelly. Its long tail is prehensile with fingertip shaped ridges occur along its underside to help it grip branches. This species has five toes and thumbs on its hind feet.

The ground cuscus prefers to reside in trees, but can be seen nesting in burrows in the ground, which is not typical to other species within its genus. Captive individuals seem to prefer residing in trees while wild individuals prefer to reside in ground burrows. This species is active during the nighttime hours and moves at a slow rate.  In the wild, individuals have been found living alone and encounters often end in violent scratching fights. In captivity, it is possible to allow breeding pairs to live together, but this can also result in aggression.  Like other marsupials, mothers of this species rear their young in pouches for long periods.

The ground cuscus occurs in large numbers across its range, but has been found to have declining numbers in some areas of its range due to over hunting. It appears in the IUCN Red List with a conservation status of “Least Concern.”

Image Caption: Ground Cuscus at Cotswold Wildlife Park, Burford, Oxfordshire. Credit: Drcwp1/Wikipedia