Colour my world, tiny Glider

22 August 2012

Healesville Sanctuary is using cutting edge technology to tag some of its smallest collection animals. Vets have inject fluorescent ink into Basil and Rosemary, two of its Feathertail Gliders during a unique veterinary procedure.

An increasing number of implant-associated tumours have been recorded in Feather-tail Gliders and, as they are too small for microchips or ear tags, with a head and body length of between 6.5cm and 8cm, this technique is being used. Feathertail Gliders get their name from their remarkable tail which is flat with stiff fringed hair growing horizontally either side all the way to the tip. The tail is used to steer and brake as they glide up to 20 metres through the trees. They are the only known mammal to have a feather-like tail.

Visible Implant Elastomer (VIE) is a two-part silicone-based liquid that is mixed immediately before use, injected and cures into a pliable, biocompatible solid. The tags are implanted beneath transparent or translucent tissue and remain externally visible. In many amphibians, fluorescent VIE tags are even visible through darkly pigmented skin. VIE tags are widely used for marking an ever-broadening range of finfish, crustaceans, reptiles and amphibians.

We strive to be a world leader in animal care and wellbeing, Dr Rupert Baker, Senior Veterinarian, Australian Wildlife Health Centre, Healesville Sanctuary, said. This minimally invasive technique allows us to tag these cute little gliders, but also the critically endangered Guthega and Alpine She-oak Skinks so they're easily identifiable when we release them back to the wild. This helps strengthen our conservation efforts to fight extinction with so many of our most vulnerable species.'

Healesville Sanctuary's Feathertail Gliders were back on display in the Nocturnal House immediately after the procedure.