Are Pedigrees Important?
As the popularity of sugar gliders continues to grow, the question of “pedigree” is becoming increasingly common. This is particularly relevant when searching for sugar gliders of unique coloration. As many of you know, we do breed a variety of special colors now, but this has only been part of our program for the last several years. The standard gray has always been our main focus and always will be. In addition to standard gray we also breed cremino, leucistic, platinum, white face, black face black beauty and on occasion we are blessed with a white tipped sugar glider.
On the question of pedigree, I do think it is very important that you know the lineage of your sugar gliders and the history of your breeder, including their breeding practices and reputation, before investing in one of the rare and uncommon beauties.
It is my opinion (and a rather strong opinion) that sugar gliders should not be inbred. Many breeders will use a term such as line breeding, which again – in my opinion – is a form of inbreeding. Line breeding typically refers to the process of skipping a generation, or breeding first cousins, as opposed to breeding a parent back to an offspring or a sibling to a sibling. I’m not personally a fan of inbreeding or line breeding. I think in order to produce the healthiest animals, breeding should be amongst unrelated sugar gliders and this is where knowing the history is important.
I often get asked if I think it likely that sugar gliders inbreed in the wild. In all honesty, I think they do. However, only the biggest, strongest, healthiest and most robust animals are the ones to breed. Weaker animals are chased out of the colony, or worse, destroyed by other members of the colonies; or they may simply remain a part of the colony with no role in the proliferation process. While this may sound cold and harsh, the reality is that nature has her own built in mechanism to maintain the survival of the species through survival of the fittest. One cool thing with sugar gliders, though, is that colony members who do not participate in the breeding process will often help care for the young of the colony. I’ve seen this personally where neutered males living amongst a breeding pair, or trio, will help raise and nurture the young. It’s all so Will and Grace!
In captive breeding programs, our animals do not have to contend with the elements, predators and food shortages which are all factors affecting the life span of free range animals. Because we are making the decision on which gliders live with whom, we are not allowing the process of natural selection to take place. Since we make the selection, we have the potential to magnify the weakest genes carried by each individual animal if we inbreed or line breed. Genetic diversity is generally going to produce stronger, healthier animals than breeding too closely.
Now there is a point at which distantly related animals are fine to breed. I base this assertion on the fact that many laws of the world allow humans to marry and have children if first cousins once removed, second cousins, third cousins, etc. Some states within our own country even allow first cousins to marry. Personally, I’m not comfortable with that idea. Don’t get me wrong – I love my cousins, but just wouldn’t want to marry any of them! But I always look forward to enjoying the Holly Daze with them!
The practicality of keeping pedigrees on the standard gray gliders presents a whole new set of challenges if you are breeder of any significant size. I spent 23 years as a CPA before I, to quote my mom, “quit the rat race to raise flying rats”. I hate that she calls them flying rats, but she makes a good point overall. As a result of my prior profession, it is part of my nature to be very detail oriented, and record keeping is an issue I take very seriously. You don’t need a full pedigree to know if the gliders are related, and that’s the important issue. I have a very elaborate system of keeping track of my related standard gliders, but do not keep pedigrees on them.
The reason for this is simple. I have a method whereby babies that are taken from parents are kept in one of four cages:
1) Males unrelated to any females in this group
2) Females unrelated to any males in this group
3) Males related to females in this group, and
4) Females related to males in this group
One thing that has made my job easier is that approximately 90 percent of our males leave here neutered. Only 5 percent of my customers ask to receive an unrelated male and female pair, and I can assure them of that happening.
However, since we keep the babies in community cages, I can no longer uniquely identify who is who. There is no standard in the glider industry to “mark” the animals. With birds, leg bands are used. With ferrets, tattoos are placed on the feet. Dogs, cats and other animals can be micro-chipped. But none of these options are viable options for the sugar glider breeder. Some people have suggested putting nail polish on a toe or two, but I don’t like this idea because they will lick it before it is dry; and nail polish is lacquer, which is not exactly the safest product to ingest.
Until there is a reasonable method to uniquely identity standard gray gliders, it is not likely that anyone will be able to set up a standard and reliable database to track this information. The AKC does this for purebred dogs but how many of you have mutts as pets? I have two “who’s yer daddy” dogs at my house right now. The standards are not yet in place to track traditionally colored sugar gliders. But it is very easy to keep track of the color gliders, from my perspective.
To you newbies, if you are looking to get into sugar gliders, make sure you are fully confident that your breeder does not inbreed or line breed (too closely). If you are looking for standard gray gliders, be confident that the dealer, pet store, or breeder you are buying from can give you assurances that the animals are not related (if getting an opposite sex pair). If the males are altered, none of this really matters. But when it comes to breeding sugar gliders, you should make sure you know who the baby daddy and baby mama are before you set forth into your own breeding program.
I’ve noticed a difference between my boy and girl gliders, and wonder if it’s common in the glider world or just particular to my little family
(mom, dad, brother, and sister). I have two females and two neutered males, and their eyes look very different. The girls have ultra feminine doe-eyes, like Disney characters minus the long lashes. The boys, however, have eyes that are so large, round, and bugged out they look like space aliens. Oh – and sweet doe eyes or not, the girls are definitely in charge at all times. Are these just family traits, or are they common differences in the glider world?
Shannon, Lono, Ku, Quomo and Crabby
Dear Shannon & Team Crabby-Q-Lo-Ku,
A doe, a dear, a female dear – soundz purty! Errrrrr, mega-lash aliens? Suggie boyz & girlz don’t usually have different kindz of eyez. Methinks we usually get the same kinda eyez our mums & pops haz. But maybe the mums & pops of each of yer Team’s mums & pops came from different partz of the world. Ya see (pun intended – hee hee), many hoomans think we suggies only came from down under in Aussie. But lotz of glider ancestorz also came from Indonesia or New Guinea. And gliderz from different areas can have different sized headz and bodyz!
Did ya know that the white tipped suggie glider is “normal” for one area of Aussie? But since Aussie hasn’t been exportin’ suggies since da 1950’z, we just don’t see too many white tipz anymore. Hmmm, wonder if captivated breederz in da United States ever have red, white and blue suggies? YUK YUK YUK!
Dunno about in Aussie or Indonesia, but sure seems like da girlz alwayz get their way here, even when they don’t have long eyelashes. But methinks da alien boyz still think those girlz are just outta this world!
Author of Boyz are Alienz (and Girlz are Doe’s?),
Love Arnold;-) Happy Holly-Dayz to you and yer team!!!
Is my Lifestyle Suitable for Owning Sugar Gliders?
For the purpose of this article, “lifestyle” refers to your form of residence (house, condo, apartment, etc.) AND the number of hours you are home. Owning a sugar glider, or any pet, requires much commitment, patience, time and money.
Living with – and loving – sugar gliders has been my preoccupation since 1999. Prior to that, I’d not really delved into the world of exotics. My world was one of “are you a dog lover or cat lover?” It is funny to me how we find different ways to define ourselves within society. In my observations, those of us that love animals do seem to have a clearly defined answer to that dog / cat question.
I am most assuredly a dog lover. It is also at the heart of what I find so attractive about sugar gliders. And to my cat lover friends, the attributes of the sugar glider will have equal appeal to you!
Sugar gliders are more “cat like” in that they own you, as opposed to you own them. The won’t learn to sit, stay, rollover, catch Frisbee, or any of those loveable obedient dog qualities. Sugar gliders will love and honor, but they’re just not real big on the obedience thing!
They are, however, “dog like”, in that they have a dog’s heart. Once they connect to you, they’re not as, “take you or leave you”, like a cat may be. OK cat lovers, don’t give me any grief here! I’ve also shared my life with two cats over the years, and they would come when I called them, and they even played fetch with me. But they were more of what I’d call a “puppy cat”, rather than the “Morris the cat” type that expects pampering on their terms!
Alas, this article is not supposed to be about dogs or cats, but most of us can relate on some level to the dog / cat comparison. A lot of dog lovers want the unconditional love and connection dogs provide, but sometimes our lifestyles may not accommodate a dog. Let’s face it, dogs require a lot of attention, should be walked, need to be let outside for potty and exercise, etc.
Sugar gliders, if kept in (at least) pairs, don’t require as much attention because they have each other. But well-bonded sugar gliders do love the attention of their human caretakers. However, they don’t need to be walked, taken out for exercise multiple times per day, or let outside for potty, which makes them a pet that may be suitable for many lifestyles.
Do you live in a small apartment? No problem, sugar gliders will fit right in. Do you work long hours? No problem, sugar gliders are asleep during the day. Do you work the graveyard shift? Fine, the best time to just hang out with your sugar gliders is during the day.
The only lifestyle I think is not really suitable for sugar gliders is when you live alone and travel a lot; or if you live with others and travel a lot as a group. Now this is not to completely suggest that you preclude sugar gliders as acceptable companion animals. If you travel a lot and have a trustworthy person nearby, then having someone to come into your home to care for them daily is an option. And I prefer this option over moving the sugar gliders or kenneling them at a vet or pet care facility. The act of moving them into new environments – especially those with a lot of other unfamiliar animals – can be very stressful on sugar gliders.
The moral of the story is simple: sugar gliders can fit into most lifestyles. But again, commitment and responsibility are critical!
So if you have the commitment to make the most of your shared accommodations with suggies, they are certainly wonderful. And like any pet, the more you put into it, the more you will get back. Sugar gliders are not instant pets, but once bonded, you will have the unconditional love that even the best dog can bring to you!
‘Til next time – in good health for you and your gliders, we sign off in appreciation of all of you who share great glider adventures with us!