There are seven species of mongooses in Malaysia, the most common being the short-tailed mongoose. They are small, slender-bodied mammals measuring about 25-60 centimetres from head to tail. Generally, their colours range from grey to reddish brown, except for the crab-eating and collared mongooses which are distinguished by their white and yellowish facial markings. Despite their small size, mongooses are known to be bold and ferocious often subduing larger animals including snakes. They are mostly found in the forests except the short-tailed mongoose which sometimes wanders into inhabited areas.
The Malaysian wild pig (babi hutan) is related to the common wild pig found in Europe, northern Africa and Asia. It has a shoulder height of 65-75 centimetres and weighs between 75-200 kilogrammes. It lives in the forest and also on the fringes of cultivated land. The bearded pig (babi jokut), which is restricted to Peninsular Malaysia, Borneo and Sumatra, is larger than the wild pig with a shoulder height of about 90 centimetres and weighs 57-120 kilogrammes. It takes its name from the fringe of long, bristly hairs on the jaws. Abundant in Sabah and Sarawak, it serves as a source of meat for hill-dwellers.
The largest group of mammals in Malaysia are the bats (kelawar), comprising some 40 per cent of the 280 species of mammals in the country. Their numbers include the fruit bat family (Megachiroptera) which feeds on fruits, flowers or nectar; and the insectivorous bats (Microchiroptera). The latter, in addition to their sight faculty, utilise echolocation to navigate and find their prey. They do this by sending out high-pitched sounds through the mouth or nose, and from the pattern of the reverberating echoes are able to configure an image of the immediate environment.
Among the fruit bats, the most common are the cave bats found in Batu Caves, Selangor, and the dog-faced fruit bats. There are also the dusky fruit bats and the spotted-wing bats. Of the insectivorous bats, the most common species are the house bats which roost under the roofs of houses and on garden palms. However, most species are forest dwellers including the whiskered bat, greater and lesser flat-headed bats and the trefoil horseshoe bat.
Squirrels and Flying Lemurs
In Malaysia, there are 26 species of diurnal tree and ground squirrels. In addition, it is home to 15 species of nocturnal flying squirrels, which are distinguished by their gliding membrane or patagium that enables them to glide from tree to tree. Squirrels belong to the Sciuridae family. Further, the tree and ground squirrels belong to the Sciurinae sub family, while the flying squirrel to the Petauristinae. Of the 26 species of diurnal squirrels, 20 are found in Sabah and Sarawak, and 14 in Peninsular Malaysia. They differ greatly in size, ranging from the tiny 20 grammes pigmy squirrel of Borneo to the black giant squirrel of Peninsular Malaysia. Some are found in the lowland forests, while others are confined to the hills and mountains.
The flying lemur or colugo, neither a lemur nor capable of true flight, is one of two members of the order Dermoptera. Gliding from tree to tree, it is often mistaken for the flying squirrel. The male animal is brighter in colour, usually a shade of brown, while the females are greyish. Both have scattered white spots on the back. It is a largely nocturnal animal that has been observed to be active in the early morning.