The sugar glider (Petaurus breviceps) is a small, omnivorous, arboreal, and nocturnal gliding possum belonging to the marsupial infraclass. The common name refers to its predilection for sugary foods such as sap and nectar and its ability to glide through the air, much like a flying squirrel.They have very similar habits and appearance to the flying squirrel, despite not being closely related—an example of convergent evolution.The scientific name, Petaurus breviceps, translates from Latin as “short-headed rope-dancer”, a reference to their canopy acrobatics.
The sugar glider is characterised by its pair of gliding membranes, known as patagia, which extend from its forelegs to its hindlegs. Gliding serves as an efficient means of reaching food and evading predators. The animal is covered in soft, pale grey to light brown fur which is countershaded, being lighter in colour on its underside.
In several countries, the sugar glider is popular as an exotic pet, and is sometimes referred to as a pocket pet. In Australia, there is opposition to keeping native animals as pets from Australia’s largest wildlife rehabilitation organisation (WIRES), and concerns from Australian wildlife conservation organisations regarding animal welfare risks including neglect, cruelty and abandonment.
In Australia, sugar gliders can be kept in Victoria, South Australia, and the Northern Territory. However, they are not allowed to be kept as pets in Western Australia, New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory, Queensland or Tasmania.
Sugar gliders are popular as pets in the United States, where they are bred in large numbers. Most states and cities allow sugar gliders as pets, with some exceptions, including California, Hawaii, Alaska, and New York City. In 2014, Massachusetts changed its law, allowing sugar gliders to be kept as pets. Some other states require permits or licensing. Breeders of sugar gliders are regulated and licensed by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) through the Animal Welfare Act.
It has been suggested that the expanding overseas trade in sugar gliders was initiated from illegally sourced sugar gliders from Australia, which were bred for resale in Indonesia. DNA analysis, however, indicates that “the USA sugar glider population originates from West Papua, Indonesia with no illegal harvesting from other native areas such as Papua New Guinea or Australia”. There have been media and internet articles which evidence a history of cruelty,and reporting on why sugar gliders should not be kept as pets. There are Sugar glider rescue organisations that cope with surrendered and abandoned sugar gliders
The sugar glider is native to parts of mainland Australia, New Guinea and certain Indonesian islands; and it was introduced to Tasmania,probably in the 1830s.It is a popular exotic pet but is prohibited in some regions, including parts of Australia and the United States.