Shipping Sugar Gliders Safely

two gliders wrapped in shirt

Shipping Sugar Gliders … Safely

By Lisa (a.k.a Viva la Glider)

Please note:  After 15 years as a breeder, SunCoast no longer sells sugar gliders.  The following is provided to help those considering having a glider shipped to them or who have to ship a glider.

We are often asked by people re-homing or rescuing gliders for detailed instructions on how to best handle shipping.  Glad to share, the info below is for you folks and also to provide a very detailed look into the shipping process for SunCoast customers.

True or False: 

1. Shipping sugar gliders via airlines is unsafe.

2.  Buying sugar gliders from local pet stores is better than having them shipped in from a good breeder.

3.  Sugar gliders are shipped in the cargo hold with no temperature control or pressurization.

4.  Shipping sugar gliders via airlines is cruel and nobody should be allowed to do it

The answer to all of these questions is false, but I would bet that each of every one of you reading this newsletter has heard something along these lines.  I have no doubt that bad shipping has and does occur, but one thing I can tell you for sure is that if you spend as much time as we do caring for and loving our little ones, nobody in their right mind would ever risk their safety first. 

Now, as promised, we are going to share with you step by step how we used to ship our babies.  But, before I start I will share with you our track record.  We are 100% successful!!! The worst incident ever experienced was a one hour flight delay.  If we even feel a little bit like weather is going to affect the transport, we scrub the flight … if its a good enough concept for NASA, its good enough for us.

OK now, fasten your seatbelts.  Rule number one is keeping glider’s humans safe!  We start off with a shipping kennel manufactured by Taconic.  This company specializes in building inexpensive, safe transportation for small animals.  Now we all know that small and sugar gliders don’t really belong in the same sentence.  Timing of the shipment is critical, because if sugar gliders are sleeping while this event is happening, they don’t really know if their space is small or  large.  Frankly, I think this is one advantage to sugar gliders being nocturnal.  It really un-complicates the whole shipping scenario.

In the Taconic shipper (called a “transit cage”), we will put a healthy layer of shavings to make the ride smooth and comfortable.  In addition, we use portable heat packs manufactured by RLD Enterprises or Uniheat.  These heat packs will hold for 35 hours, much much longer than any flight we would ever consider doing.

Next, we asked that our customers purchase a sleeping pouch from us.  Then, we would separate the babies into their own space and get them sleeping in the pouch.  We think it’s really important to bring a little piece of home in order to keep the newness of everything down a bit.  This, undoubtedly, helps to reduce stress levels.

We book flights via United Airlines and Delta Airlines.  Other airlines ship as well, but these are the two we prefer shipping from Tampa airport.  You can go online to find phone numbers for the airlines and ask them to direct you to live animal reservations.  Stipulate whether you will be traveling with the animals or not, this will affect both pricing and availability.

We always strive to leave out in the morning.  Our philosophy is that after a long night of play and eating, these babies are exhausted and are ready for some peaceful rest.  We also try to book a flight that will arrive at such a time that the glider’s new parents will have ample time to drive home, and get the babies settled before their normal wake up time is even close. 

Others issues that may need to be attended to before shipping include obtaining a state issued veterinarian certificate and shipping insurance.  The airline may require a vet to examine the glider prior to shipping.  It helps protect both the new glider parents and the shipper of the glider from airline handling issues to have the glider certified healthy prior to shipping.  We also suggest that you spend the extra $3 – $4 for insuring the babies.  Despite our flawless track record, we are not so naive to think nothing tragic will ever happen. We all know that tragedy can strike in our very own homes, even with the best in mind for our suggies.  So you should always get the insurance when you ship, just in case.

It is of utmost importance that you ship the sugar gliders with access to food and hydration.  Because we only choose flights with a relatively short duration time, we found apples to be a good source of both nourishment and water.  Those of you who already own sugar gliders are familiar with their habit of “sucking” some food, and from apples they get a good amount of water.  If you wish to ship sugar gliders and push the duration of the flight, please be conscientious of the food source you provide as it may spoil under certain conditions.

Last, but not least, we always check the weather the night before shipping.  We check our local weather broadcasts, national weather broadcasts and call the airline for their weather forecasts and final confirmation of the flight information.  We will scrub a flight in a heartbeat if the weather even seems a little “iffy”.  We hope that all of our customers understand that we want this to be a safe and easy experience for the joeys.  Even though we are in Florida and having our best weather of the year, we understand that conditions can be pretty brutal in other parts of the country during winter months.  One thing to be aware of, however, is that airlines will not allow animal shipping when conditions are excessively hot.  This is called “heat embargo”.  We can take measures to keep our babies warm in winter, but keeping critters cool in summer is a whole different challenge which requires perfect weather conditions and very short flights.  Dehydration is a critical problem for sugar gliders and we urge you to exercise extreme care when shipping during the dog days of summer.

At this time, I would like to share a letter with you from a recent customer of ours that lives in Buffalo, NY. We shipped two very special baby sugar gliders to her and her husband shortly after Buffalo experienced record snowfall.  We were fortunate to meet our first flight window and this is what Danielle had to say about her experience bringing home Baby Y and Baby Spice!

Hello Lisa!!!

I wanted to take a moment to say ‘thank you’ for my two wonderful baby gliders Wynnona and Spice.  I am so elated to be their momma.  I also wanted to tell you how wonderful your shipping process is and appeal to anyone who has heard it is ‘bad’ or ‘inhumane’ to ship a glider on an airplane: you will have a whole new perspective when you receive a glider shipped from SunCoast.  

I first want to start off by saying that I was going to buy my glider initially from a pet store because I was nervous about having one sent on a flight and the effect it could have on my glider.  I came across SunCoast’s web page during a late night search for information, and contacted Lisa with the intent on buying a few toys for the glider I wanted to purchase at the pet store.  The next day I called Lisa and we spoke for a good hour about gliders and her love of them was evident in everything she said.  I made my decision to purchase a pair of gliders from her but was still nervous about having them fly.

We initially set up a date that we would have the gliders fly out to me from Florida to Buffalo, New York.  She indicated that it would be just over a week before they would fly out because they were going to have their own special pouch to sleep in and scent, so they could have it and feel ‘at home’ when they flew and arrived.  What forethought on her behalf!  The entire week Lisa kept a close eye on the changing weather patterns out of Florida and into New York.  She advised me that if the weather took a turn for the worse, we would have to cancel their flight out and reschedule to avoid the possibility of an extended layover or worse, a complete grounding of a plane which could cause undue stress to the babies.  Luckily, the weather cleared that Saturday and Lisa called me in the evening before they were due in to provide me with the flight number, arrival time, air bill #, and where I could pick them up at the airport.  She also reassured me that the airlines cabins were pressurized and climate controlled so that the babies have a comfortable ride.  Even with all of this I was nervous about their flight.  I wondered ‘what if the airline messes this up’ or ‘what if they hurt the babies..’ 

They arrived at 4:02 pm EST in a secure travel container.  They didn’t make a peep as I happily put them into the car and drove home.  I was so anxious and excited I could burst.  The first thing I noticed was the sign at the top of the box that read ‘IN CASE OF A FLIGHT DELAY, CUT AN APPLE INTO QUARTERS AND PLACE IN TRAP DOOR TO FEED’.  There was deliberate caring thought in everything SunCoast does for their gliders.  I slowly removed the tape and opened the container.  There was the pouch, seemingly undisturbed from the flight.  What was astounding was that the shavings placed in the travel carrier to ‘cushion’ the ride were undisturbed, exactly in place, which means that my babies were handled with CARE on the flight… so much care that neither the flight nor the handling disturbed the shavings.  Underneath the shavings was a ‘heat pack’, still warm, used to ensure that the babies had a comfortable flight. 

With eager hands I picked up the pouch and peeked inside… the 2 babies were FAST ASLEEP!!!  They didn’t even know they had just taken a 1000 mile journey and were with their new mom.  They were simply perfect, I couldn’t have been more thrilled.

That night they both came out to have a look at their new home.  They ate a hearty meal and did not appear to be phased by the transition.  They didn’t suffer from any lack of appetite, depression, or stress induced diarrhea.  I’m now a firm believer.  It’s time to un-learn what you thought you knew about shipping gliders through a major airline.  If you ship the RIGHT way your babies will arrive HAPPY and HEALTHY.  I thank you, Lisa… but more importantly, 
Wynnona and Spice thank you.

Danielle Levesque