The colorful creatures can measure up to three feet long from head to tail and weigh in at around four pounds
As Jason Bittel reports for National Geographic, the colorful four-pound critters—enjoying a renewed burst of attention thanks to a series of snapshots posted on Instagram by amateur photographer Kaushik Vijayan—not only roam the forests of southern India, but also, in the words of wildlife conservation biologist John Koprowski, look “exactly” like the majestic orange-, purple- and maroon-colored animals seen on Vijayan’s feed. (Give or take a few filters, that is: Evolutionary biologist Dana Krempels points out that the photographer may have enhanced the squirrels’ natural coloring by applying a “vibrance” setting.)
“The four species that make up this group are fascinating in their large size, brilliant coloration, and penchant for feeding on some of the massive tropical fruits in the tree canopy,” Koprowski tells Bittel.
Although these companions match the Malabar squirrel in sheer mass, they have decidedly less technicolor coats: Ratufa affinis, found in Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia, has brown or tan coloring, while Ratufa bicolor, as its name suggests, is mainly black and white. Ratufa macroura, also dubbed the Sri Lankan giant squirrel, bears two-toned shades of black and grey.
According to the Independent’s Chiara Giordano, Malabar giant squirrels can measure up to 36 inches, or three feet, from head to tail. Their better-known grey, red and black relatives (such as the friendly eastern greys common across North America) are roughly half this size.